Sunday, April 26, 2015

Fun Home @ the Circle in the Square Theatre

Great shows seem to be a dime a dozen this Broadway season. Amazing shows are also pretty prevalent, but a little rarer. Fun Home is one of those amazing shows-mixing humor and poignancy in a profoundly moving way.

Fun Home tells the story of the life of cartoonist Alison Bechdel in a non-linear time bending way. It looks back on her childhood growing up in a funeral home/living museum (the Fun Home of the title), and how she came out to her parents in college only to discover her father was gay as well and had been sleeping with men throughout her entire childhood.

This play focuses on three different versions of Alison Bechdel and each one is a triumph. One of the quietest roles, and yet still the most compelling is Alison played by Beth Malone. She is a constant unobtrusive presence looking back on her life, and sometimes commenting as well.
Malone strikes the perfect balance of sometimes being at the forefront of the scene and then deftly stepping back to let the other characters have their moment. It’s a difficult skill that Malone makes look easy. Emily Skegg wonderfully plays up the awkward college years of Middle Alison, while making her endearingly heart-felt. Her first encounter with Joan (Roberta Colindrez) is a high spot of comedy and heart. Small Alison (Sydney Lucas) is a little firecracker with youthful energy, but with some hint of being wise beyond her age.

The supporting cast is outstanding as well, with a particular focus on Bruce (Michael Cerveris) and Helen (Judy Kuhn), Alison’s parents. Kuhn, a Broadway legend, was extraordinary as always. She created enormous depth to her character out of just a little, as the script mostly focuses on Bruce. Her eleventh-hour number “Days and Days” is a wonder to behold. Cerveris is also a Broadway vet, and he deftly moves between the loving father and the stern authoritarian, easily showing that underneath a lot of swagger, he feels something is wrong. Both Cerveris and Kuhn more classical voices translate gorgeously to the more contemporary score.Speaking of the score, the music by Jeanine Tesori blends beautifully with the book and lyrics by Lisa Kron.

In supporting the theme of shifting time, the music shifts through singing and underscoring like moving through water. Themes happen and then move away and slide back for more poignancy and thought. Particular standouts go to Kuhn’s “Days and Days”, Middle Alison’s bombastic declaration of love in “Changing My Major,” Small Alison’s first hints at homosexuality in the anthem “Ring of Keys,” and my personal favorite, the awkward moving attempt at a serious conversation that never really happens between Bruce and Middle Alison, replaced by Alison for a moment in “Telephone Wire.”

Fun Home is beautiful, stark, and full of life with just the right amount of “fun.” Do. Not. Miss. This show is one for the books.

Review By: Chrissy Cody
Photos By: Joan Marcus

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