All she wanted was to be her authentic self and have people love her unconditionally. But the journey was scarred by insecurity, unacceptance, and fear. Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori bring to life a graphic novel by Alison Bechdel chronicling her life as a closeted lesbian. The award winning Broadway play “Fun Home” is currently residing at Knight Theater and shines a bright light on a community that wasn’t always celebrated.
Imagine you have a burning feeling that you just can’t shake. A secret. You’re not even sure why it’s a secret, but you’re embarrassed that you have this internal inferno that defies description. You’re a girl that prefers jean jackets over dresses and sneakers to ballet flats. Now, imagine you’re 10.
As an adolescent, Alison didn’t think she was that much different than anyone else. Until she was. She enjoyed being silly with her brothers, balancing on her father’s feet pretending to fly high in the air, and hearing her mother tickle the ivories or even sing in a local theater performance. To the naked eye, they were a normal and loving family. But she also had moments of confusion. Like the time she was mesmerized by a female delivery driver who wore dungarees, laced boots, and a key ring full of clanging keys. She was butch. And Alison loved it.
She also loved her conflicted father. She wanted to be a daddy’s girl, but it seemed to slip between her fingers at times. He wanted to be the doting father, but seemed to inevitably get in his own way.
There were slivers of happiness but jolting moments of chaos overshadowed them. Alison’s father Bruce (Robert Petkoff) is austere. He’s an English teacher, a contractor, a mortician, and a lover literature. Helen (Susan Moniz) is Alison’s despondent mother. The singer-musician has lost herself while raising their three children and lives in regret at the thought of her sham of a marriage.
Carly Gold as Small Alison is aware of the characters’ highs and lows, and effectively delivers them. When she’s excited, you can’t help but smile. And when she’s not, you’re not either. She forces you to feel every emotion she throws into the air. You’ll picture the girl next door and fall in love while wanting to be her protector. Medium Alison, Abby Corrigan, is funny yet powerful. She’s lots of confused college students on the edge of discovery – of themselves, of their immediate surroundings, and of the world they’ve yet to experience. Though she’s a third of the trio, she’s first place in relatability. She normalizes the nuances of coming into yourself during the brink of adulthood. And sprinkles a bit of humor about the stage in the process.
Katie Shindle is present-day Alison and serves as a narrator of sorts. She finally owns her choices and decides to live in the moment. Suprisingly, so does her father. Too often he ditches logic for spontaneity, which leads to his ultimate destruction.
The set is simple with the stage divided into areas. There are no visible demarcation lines. The rooms just bleed into each other. No boundaries, no distinction. Just an open floor plan that mimics their lives. There are, of course highs and lows, that may cause you to think about your own vices, whatever they may be. “Fun Home” isn’t always fun, but it’s raw and real and refreshing.
For more information visit www.blumenthalarts.org.
Image courtesy of Joan Marcus