Short & Sweet: 'Fun Home' a paradox of a powerhouse
The 2015 groundbreaking Tony Award winner for Best Musical "Fun Home" opened at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago to a heartfelt standing ovation. "Fun Home" is based on a 2006 graphic memoir, subtitled "A Family Tragicomic," by the American cartoonist Alison Bechdel. The show reflects on the author's childhood and youth in rural Pennsylvania, focusing on her complex relationship with her father, who was gay, and how she discovered her own sexuality. The production is a paradox to typical Broadway musicals as it is very intimate. The songs are mostly power ballads and the scenery, much like a framed cartoon image, is composed with minimal props framed out to help us identify a location.
The humor sprinkled throughout reflects the author's ability to laugh at herself and helps us to digest the complex family dynamic of a stifled wife who turns a blind eye to her husband's true homosexual identity, and children who are raised in the parlor of a funeral home.
The voices in this cast are powerful and blend beautifully in the duos and trios. There is no room to vocally hide in this intense production and the stakes are high for each of them. Veteran Chicago actor Susan Moniz's character, Helen, is the most haunting in the show. In one powerful scene, she plays the piano in another room as she tries her best to ignore it when her husband, Bruce, begins to seduce a young man in their library. Although it is her husband who is in the closet, it's his wife who is truly suppressed and unable to face her reality.
My guest was for "Fun Home" was Mike Pelter of Naperville and he was riveted through this one act of powerful, unconventional storytelling. I think we both wiped away a tear at the final curtain for this powerhouse of a cast.
"Fun Home" plays at the Oriental Theatre through Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016, and the show runs one hour and 45 straight through with no intermission. It has mature subject matter and is probably best for 13 years and older.
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