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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