Sunday, October 27, 2013

Fun Home

Based on Alison Bechdel's brilliant graphic memoir, the equally brilliant musical Fun Home tells the story of Alison (depicted at three ages by three different performers); her father, a not-quite-closeted closet case; and her mother, a talented woman trying to make the best of a disappointing life.
Roberta Colindre, Alexandra Socha
Photo: Joan Marcus

The show is structured loosely around the memories of the adult Alison (Beth Malone), who is trying to comprehend her past and, in particular, her complicated father, with his charm, fits of anger, manic redecorating schemes, and frightening coldness. How is she supposed to process the fact that this cultured sensitive man, whom she loved deeply, seduced young--sometimes very young--males? On this level, the show is heartbreaking.

Fun Home is also the story of the writer as a young dyke, tracing Alison's coming of age, from her first butch stirrings to her first girlfriend. On this level, the show is sweet and funny.

Jeanine Tesori's music is as wonderful as Tesori's music always is: melodic, touching, beautiful, funny, revealing, and true to character. Lisa Kron's book and lyrics are excellent; she is equally comfortable with the vicissitudes of Alison's childhood and the clumsy joys of coming out. I would love to quote some of her lyrics here, but they would be spoiler-ish, and I don't want to hurt a second of this amazing show. The direction by Sam Gold is sensitive and smart. David Zinn's scenic and costume design are both apt and attractive.

The cast is nothing short of amazing, in particular Small Alison (the astounding Sydney Lucas) and Medium Alison (the staggeringly talented Alexandra Socha). Judy Kuhn invests the role of Alison's mother with quiet dignity and pain, and when she finally reveals herself through song, it's beautifully devastating. Michael Cerveris is hampered by a wig, glasses, and clothing that practically yell "child molester," and I think he is miscast in general. (In the workshop, Martin Moran brought so much more to the part in many ways, not least by being right for it.) Roberta Colindrez as Joan, Alison's first love, is exactly who she should be.

If you had told my 20-something self that in 2013 there would be a superb musical that included authentic lesbian characters having full, not-just-lesbian lives, I would have said, "I have to wait until 2013? Are you fucking kidding me?" But better late than never, and Fun Home would be a gift in any decade, in any century.

The whole idea of seeing yourself on stage is an interesting one. I have spent my life identifying with people of different sexes, races, ages, nationalities, and centuries. But to see people on stage who are genuinely like me is a rare thrill. And to see them in the best musical in years, a show that successfully mixes love and fear and disappointment and creepiness and reality, a show with a gorgeous score and excellent book and lyrics is well . . .  wow. Simply that: wow.

(first row; friend-of-a-member discounted ticket.)

No comments: