Fun Home, running December 13 through the 18 at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, was as much sweet, upbeat, and inspirational as it was heavy, touching, and saddening. Alison Bechdel’s story is too important not to be interpreted correctly, and with few exceptions, director Sam Gold did an excellent job of bring Alison’s story to the stage and inspiring the audience.
Throughout the story, Alison Bechdel, excellently portrayed by Kate Shindle, guides the audience through three important stages of her life- childhood, to young adulthood, to present day adulthood. Alison was a queer child growing up in a homophobic household lead by her closeted gay father. Adult Alison dives into her memories, guiding the audience through her ultimate journey of understanding her father’s suicide by reminiscing about the acceptance of her sexuality in a world where she didn’t feel she belonged.
The major characteristic of Young Alison is that she is just discovering her sexuality and trying to be who she is without disappointing her disapproving father. Baldacchino did justice to the iconic song, “Ring of Keys” bringing the perfect amount of humor to Alison’s first emotional breakthrough. The definite comedic highlight of the show was Alison’s second milestone, as a college student after having sex for the first time, excellently performed by Abby Corrigan. And finally, the most heart-wrenching and touching moment of the show was Adult Alison’s heartfelt and touching song “Telephone Wire” which allows her to imagine how her last night with her father could have gone if he was accepting of himself and of her. Shindle’s performance was brilliantly executed, bringing all of Alison’s raw emotion and pain straight to the heart making the scene engaging and beautifully emotional to watch.
The show, mostly being beautiful and engaging, did have one major flaw that stood out to me and made the show uncomfortable to watch at times. Watching the show, it appeared to me that it was written in a way that heavily stereotyped and alienated the lesbian community in it’s attempt to do the opposite. Alison states multiple times that she prefers to wear “boy clothes” and wants a crew cut, but the way this was conveyed made it almost seem like you must follow these stereotypes if you are lesbian, which I disagree with entirely. This made scenes and songs like “Party Dress” uncomfortable to watch because it felt like these stereotypes were shoved in my face while the actors were simultaneously trying to promote equality. It wasn’t until I talked to a friend of mine who had read the book and seen the musical on Broadway, and he explained to me that Alison is a butch lesbian, and these “stereotypes” are specific to her, but the show is not trying to apply them to the entire lesbian community. This makes sense to me, and after knowing this I can tell that this was a directing problem rather than writing or acting. This was really the only major fault that I saw in the show, and there were so many other beautiful directing choices that I credit the director for being bold, even if I disagreed with the way some of it came across.