Wednesday, October 24, 2018

QUICK TAKE REVIEW By Beverly Creasey Remembering and Revisiting Childhood

FUN HOME (@ BCA through Nov. 24th) is the kind of intimate, artful musical which is right up SpeakEasy’s alley. They take small works like Jason Robert Brown’s A New Brain or Tony Kushner’s Caroline, or Change and give them the definition that might be lost in a huge theater. That said, FUN HOME won a slew of Tony Awards in New York including Best Musical, being the first musical with a lesbian central character to do so.

FUN HOME (music by Jeanine Tesori/book and lyrics by Lisa Kron) is based on the graphic novel by Alison Bechdel, which Bechdel sardonically calls “A Family Tragicomedy”… Tragic certainly as the loss of a parent can be to the survivors, but comic because she had inventive siblings for support. In the musical they make up a delightfully irreverent, faux advertisement for their father’s funeral home business (hence the title of the musical).

All isn’t fun for Alison and her brothers. Their father is remote and can be cruel on occasion. We meet Alison at three times in her life, as a schoolgirl (Marissa Simeqi), as a college student (Ellie van Amerongen) with Amy Jo Jackson as principal narrator of the musical at age 43. The trick is that they’re all sharing the stage together.

The forty three year old has a grown-up’s empathy for her gay, closeted father because “he didn’t know what to do… he wanted more out of life” but the eight year old didn’t understand why he constantly belittled her ideas. In fact both father (Todd Yard) and mother (Laura Marie Duncan) burden Alison with their problems. Both parents have musical moments where they lay bare their emotions but Duncan’s “Days and Days” about “the day you disappear” is a show stopper.

Director Paul Daigneault has a talented cast to bring home the coming of age story… and because music director Matthew Stern and the small-scale ensemble are on stage, FUN HOME becomes a cozy chamber musical. Tesori’s score ranges from mother’s classical etude to a wonderful rock n’ roll number, Ring of Keys featuring solid guitar work from Tom Young.

Van Amerongen totals up lots of laughs when she finally feels comfortable enough to come out, in the riotous Changing My Major [to Joan]. Desire Graham is a standout as the object of her affection, as are Cameron Levesque and Luke Gold portraying her precocious, younger brothers.