Entertainment » Theatre

Fun Home

by Will Demers
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Nov 8, 2017
Fun Home

When you grow older and realize that some of the memories of your family are cloudy and fuzzy at best, do you write them down? Knowing that some of the things may have been painful to recollect presents a problem; if you were discovering your own sexuality while realizing that your parents were struggling with difficulties of their own makes the process pretty intense. But what if you weren't just writing them down, you decide to explore your past in a graphic novel?

Alison Bechdel did just that. "Fun Home" was her take on a certain period of her life, namely her childhood, and her teen years when she heads to college and realizes that she is a lesbian. As a cartoonist, this artist presented a "tragicomic" story of her life in a 2006 published graphic novel, filled with intimate moments of her past. Her father, Bruce, is at the center, an English Teacher/Undertaker/Artificer who repressed his own homosexuality because he came of age during a time when you got married to a woman, had kids and raised that family.

But Bruce had an eye for younger men, sometimes underaged guys and his wife Helen knew about this. From babysitters to handymen to students, these boys were affairs for Bruce, and Helen quietly went along, because that's what she felt she needed to do. It makes for an interesting evening of theatre, made all the more intimate with song.

But it connects with the audience in reflections of childhood, love, family and first experiences. Bechdel created the novel, and this musical recreates a tormented but complex character in Bruce (Robert Petkoff,) Alison herself at three points in her life, (Kate Shindle as the adult, Abby Corrigan as the college age, and Carly Gold as the younger.)

Helen (Susan Moniz) as the most heartwrenching character of all, the wife. Both Alison's brothers John (Henry Boshart) and Christian (Luke Barbato Smith) are present when she is recollecting her past with Bruce restoring their old house, and running a funeral home (dubbed the Fun Home by all three children, hence the title.)

The affairs are played by Robert Hager in different costumes; and Joan (Victoria Janicki) Alison's college crush. His cast fits their roles like a glove; each of them brings to life Bechdel's complicated younger existence to life vividly. Utilizing the opulent Bechdel house as a backdrop, "Fun Home" resonates loudly with all of us, family memories, heartbreak, tragedy, and love are all laid bare in just under two hours.

Presented without intermission, this play is amazingly touching, funny and sad with amazing performances. Janicki is perfect as the college lesbian crush. Both Boshart and Smith are delightful as the sons, making the most of their roles, notably during the "Come to the Fun Home" number. Hager hits the right notes as each of the affairs for Bruce.

Moniz nearly brings the house down with "Days and Days" where she recollects her realization that her husband was cheating on her with men, she is mesmerizing. Carly Gold is pure magic as the youngest Alison; she moves the audience with "Ring of Keys." Corrigan is appropriately awkward as the college Alison, and Kate Shindle is glowing as the middle-aged Bechdel.

Bruce is probably the most challenging role of all, and Robert Petkoff nails it. From playing with his kids to his obsession with restoring old homes and growing increasingly despondent with his existence "Edges of the World," Petkoff delivers a heart-wrenching portrayal of a complicated man. The music nicely accentuates the dramatic as well as the comedic; this "Home" is wonderfully presented.

A night of amazing theater, you won't want to miss a second of it, and while you're at it, pick up a copy of the novel, too.

"Fun Home" runs through November 12 at the Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC) 220 Weybosset Street, Providence, RI 02903. For information or tickets, call 401-421-2997 or visit www.ppacri.org


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