I do not associate funeral homes with fun. I also wouldn't expect a show to be titled "Fun Home" and have dark elements. Funeral homes associated with death, a topic that heavily contrasts with the word "fun". The 2016 production at the Orpheum made the unexpected work. Through humor and impeccable acting and voice, "Fun Home" took the challenging topic of the fluidity of sexuality and the tragic subject of suicide and made it an incredibly entertaining performance.
The "Fun" Home is a Funeral Home run by Bruce (Robert Petkoff), and the main character is his daughter Alison (Kate Shindle). In the beginning of the performance, Alison told us her father committed suicide. He was gay, married to a woman, both of them unhappy. Bruce and Alison's experiences of being gay uncover two types of sexuality: one repressed, and one accepted. Their common thread is being gay, as we see from the choice to have both of them sing the same melody, saying, "I want more" throughout the show. This genius musical choice of reoccurring melodies reminded me of the renowned Hamilton and was very powerful. It amplified Bruce and Alison's similarity and yet their key difference: Alison fulfills her life while Bruce leaves it unhappy. Bruce hid his sexuality and relieved his frustration through keeping the house excessively clean (and occasionally cheating on his wife and sexually assaulting minors). Bruce took out his repression on his family and himself; he became toxic and destructive. Petkoff played his frustration and struggles exceptionally.
The child version of Alison (Alessandra Baldacchino) revealed a glorious sweetness and naïveté with her voice and acting. The innocence and confusion of a child made it even more touching to watch her question her first crush on another girl. It felt real, raw, true. College-aged Alison (Abby Corrigan) made me laugh harder than any other character. She was nervous, awkward, not sure of her sexuality. Corrigan managed to balance this humor with the serious note of trying to be courageous enough to come out as gay. Her first sexual experience with Joan (Karen Elibacher) had the entire theatre laughing. She was incredibly eager and was grabbing onto Joan as if she would slip from her fingers if she didn't jump on her soon enough. This hilarious scene was followed by a musical number about how much she loved sex with Joan. The emotions were felt through her voice and clearly visible in her posture and movements. Laughter roared at her passionate honesty and nervously excited thoughts.
"Fun Home" took the serious topic of understanding the broadness of sexuality and the effects that the repression of one's true self can lead to. The cast managed to portray challenging emotions and the humor in the script added to the beauty of the production. This, I'm sure, will be the only fun funeral home I'll ever know