Fun Home: Theater review by Adam Feldman
Alison Bechdel is a cartoonist: It’s her job to fit stories into boxes. But her own life story resists easy lines. Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori’s Fun Home, based on Bechdel’s graphic memoir, gracefully and movingly contrasts two narratives. One is about Alison (played as an adult by Beth Malone, as a college student by Emily Skeggs and as a child by Sydney Lucas) and her nervous, joyous self-discovery as a lesbian. The other is about her fussy and controlling father, Bruce (Michael Cerveris), a small-town English teacher and funeral-home director whose own homosexuality—hidden and shameful to him and his wife (Judy Kuhn)—may have been a factor in his suicide, which happened shortly after Alison came out to him.
Fun Home is a thing of rare beauty: a Broadway musical of enormous intelligence and sensitivity. Kron’s libretto grabs you with humor and poignant detail; Tesori’s music, as in her classic score for Caroline, or Change, moves with great skill from tuneful pastiche (there’s an irony-soaked Partridge Family–style number) to striking dramatic force. Impressive as it was in its 2013 premiere at the Public Theater, the show is even stronger now. Superbly restaged by Sam Gold for Circle in the Square’s nearly in-the-round space, with David Zinn’s set rising and sinking like memory, it emerges with fresh clarity: Malone’s searching presence is more central, and Cerveris more sympathetic and complex. Fun Home is not your ordinary Broadway musical, because it is extraordinary. It sings outside the box.—Adam Feldman
Circle in the Square (Broadway). Music by Jeanine Tesori. Book and lyrics by Lisa Kron. Dir. Sam Gold. With ensemble cast.
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4.5 / 5
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Sometimes the drama isn't in the big moments, but really in the smaller moments that make up one's life.
Alison Bechdel's childhood to adulthood story is profoundly touching, not only in realizing her true self, but more in the growth she gains from the different lessons she learns as a result of the actions (and inactions) of her father and mother.
The cast all around is amazing. Missed the production with Sydney Lucas, but Gabriella Pizzolo was still a great Small Alison. However, the stars of the show go to Judy Kuhn and Michael Cerveris, with such affecting performances.
Try to catch before the production closes!
More a chamber opera than traditional musical theater, "Fun Home" is a quirky, black comedy about a lesbian cartoonist's childhood, her closeted gay father, their strained relationship and his suspicious suicide, all set in the family business, a funeral parlor. Well, if Sondheim can give us murderous barbers and human meat-pies and make it entertaining, why not? Unfortunately, all the story lines don't quite mesh and there's not much of a dramatic arc to the show, performed in one, 100 minute act. Tessori's score is lovely and reminiscent of Sondheim in parts, but also features some tunes that don't quite fit with the rest. The three actors that play the real life cartoonist Alison Bechtel as a child, a college student and the adult "narrator/observer" are all great. An understudy covered for the father, normally played by Michael Cerveris, but he cannot match Cerveris vocally.
Brilliant. Theatre at its best. It was a last minute decision to attend and I'm so glad we did. My only advice would be to try and avoid sitting behind the band as it makes it hard to here the dialogue properly. I'm not sure about the casting for the role of the father but the piece is just exceptional.