Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Fun Home began as a memoir in graphic novel format by cartoonist Alison Bechdel about growing up, fitting in, and coming out as a lesbian in a small Pennsylvania town. Lisa Kron (book and lyrics) and Jeanine Tesori (music) frame the show as adult Alison (Kate Shindle) looking back on her life through evocations of her younger selves: outspoken Small Alison (Alessandra Baldacchino, stunningly effective and never cutesy) and college-age Medium Alison (Abby Corrigan, gawky and endearing).
The central mystery of the plot is Alison's complex relationship with her father Bruce (Robert Petkoff), a high school English teacher and funeral director ("fun home" is the family's nickname for the business), but also a man with desires that had to be kept hidden in a town where everyone knows everyone else's business. "Sometimes my father appeared to enjoy having children," Alison says, but Bruce devotes most of his spare time to perfecting the period-appropriate décor of the family's Victorian home (images, surfaces, façades...) while his wife Helen (Susan Moniz), two young sons (Pierson Salvador and Lennon Nate Hammond), and Alison provide unacknowledged support.
Petkoff nails Bruce's pride and anger, his desperation and moments of joy, and his heartbreaking collapse. Moniz has less to doHelen, also a teacher, escapes the stresses of her marriage through playing the piano and acting in local productionsbut her solo "Days and Days" hits home. Shindle is an able guide to the terrain and has a knockout musical scene with Petkoff as she tries to rewrite history.
Director Sam Gold has rethought his Broadway production, staged in the round at Circle in the Square, to fit into proscenium stages. David Zinn's malleable scenic design begins with pieces of furniture scattered across the stage until the actors bring the set to life, assembling one room after another and eventually displaying the Bechdel living room in full. Ben Stanton's lighting design is largely naturalistic with a few flourishes: illuminated frames around actors (suggesting cartoon blocks) and blasts of color in fantasy moments.
The National Theatre