Irony is not easily conveyed in the flatness of the page.
In Fun Home, a transfer from the Public to Broadway’s Circle in the Square, with cast pretty much intact, the irony is revealed on-stage. “Fun Home” is the name the Bechdels use for their family business, a funeral parlor their father inherited from his. There is irony also in this reference to the Bechdels grim home life.
Mercurial and charismatic, Bruce (Michael Cerveris) holds his children and his wife, Helen (Judy Kuhn) enthrall. His daughter Alison’s (played by Sydney Lucas as a youngster) adulation of him is bound for disappointment. Bruce is a bully and fraud.
Cerveris gets the nuances –and the narcicism- -in Bruce’s moods perfectly. Kuhn as his wife is appropriately defeated and downtrodden.
The elder Alison (Beth Malone) narrates as she sketches. Fun Home is a memory play, or more precisely, a memory musical.
Jeanine Tesori (music) and Lisa Kron (book and lyrics) adapted Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel of her reminiscences. Alison, as she tells the audience, is a lesbian cartoonist. Her drawings turn into the episodes of Fun Home.
The things that shock the characters of Fun Home are not particularly dramatic or revelatory, and hence, the musical is low-key and emotionally held back.
The cast are very fine, although the sotto voce score doesn’t fully showcase their talents. Each one of them does get one big number. It shines a light on their characters, and gives them a chance to belt one out. It also dispels a little of the gloom of the plot.
That gloom is set up early on in the explication as Alison analyzes her life. A one-woman Greek chorus, she is reliving scenes and commenting on them at the same time in Fun Home.
The excellent Emily Skeggs as Middle Alison discovers her homosexuality while in college. Her lover, Joan (Robetrta Colindrez) has a polymorphous androgenous sexiness that makes their attraction unsurprising. Rounding out the cast are the two Bechdel boys, John (Zell Steele Morrow) and Christian (Oscar Williams,) and Joel Perez in a variety roles. The stand-out among the children in the cast is Zell Steele Morrow, who is just precocious enough to be adorable.
David Zinn’s sets and costumes are versatile, and work well. The staging is lovely, furnishings emerge from the floorboards, and the 7-piece orchestra occupies the archways at one end of the living room; the piano belongs to the Bechdels. Sam Gold directs.
For more on Fun Home, please visit http://funhomebroadway.com/