by Sydney Newcomb and Devon Middlebrook
Disclaimer: APS Media covered the event courtesy of complimentary press passes from Broadway in Boston. Image taken by Joan Marcus, Broadway in Boston. This review contains plot spoilers.
The theatrical production Fun Home is an adaptation of the graphic novel written by Alison Bechdel. The musical itself has won multiple Tony Awards, including Best Musical in 2015. It is a coming of age to story about a girl who discovers both herself and her sexuality while growing up and navigating her relationship with her father. The show plays at the Boston Opera House from October 17th to October 29th.
Coming in with high hopes for this production, Fun Home exceeded our expectations. Not only were the actors, set, lighting, and music very impressive, the story is important and relevant to today’s society. How can you make a story about sexuality, suicide, broken homes, and mental illnesses appealing to audiences without altering the themes? Jeanine Tesori, music, and Lisa Kron, lyrics and book, take Alison Bechdel’s memoir and turn it into something hauntingly beautiful.
The depiction of mental illness in Fun Home is spot on. Although it is not explicitly stated, throughout the musical you can tell that both Alison and her dad, Bruce, suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder. Fun Home does an excellent job of portraying what it is like to be both the effector and the affected. Behind closed doors, the audience sees Bruce struggle with not only his sexuality but his need for everything in his house to be absolutely spotless all the time. In the song, “Welcome to our House on Maple Avenue”, there is a clear depiction of what Bruce expects from his wife, Helen, and his three children when someone comes to visit his house. The rest of the family tries their hardest to meet his expectations in order for Bruce’s panic not to hit them. Fun Home does not romanticize mental illness in anyway. It is clear the impact and trauma that all of these characters go through.
The main topic of Fun Home is how Alison deals with discovering her sexuality throughout her life while being suppressed by her also gay father. In many scenes, it is shown that Bruce is clearly not on board with Alison’s sexuality although he is gay himself. While Alison begins to live her life as an openly gay women in college, Bruce is falling further into a dark hole. He is damaging himself and also his relationship with his wife. The main message of Fun Home is a simple yet scarily difficult question: to be truthful, or to not be truthful? As the audience sees in the haunting song, “Edges of the World”, Bruces fight with his own sexuality ends with him allowing a truck to hit him. While Alison allowed the truth, began a relationship with fellow gay union member, Joan, in college, Bruce let the truth destroy him. The relevance of this story is simple. Being yourself hurts a lot more than hiding yourself does.
Without fail, Fun Home is a poignant and thought-provoking piece of art. The story it tells can hit close to home for some people, and even if it doesn’t, the message is still relevant to everyone. Fun Home can be seen at the Boston Opera House up until this Sunday, October 29th.