Fun Home shows how tolerance has progressed over generations

By Preman Koshar || Arts & Entertainment Editor

Last weekend, I had the great privilege of seeing the Broadway show Fun Home for free, thanks to F&M alumnus James Lapine ’71 (who also happened to write a little book/movie called Into the Woods— you may have heard of it). Last Sunday, I hopped aboard a bus bound for the wonderful City of New York (also free — did I mention that James Lapine is a pretty darn cool guy?), and, a few short hours later, I was on Broadway.

Fun Home was directed by Sam Gold, and performed in the Circle in the Square theater, which, appropriately, consists of a circular (really more ovular, but whatever) stage, surrounded by a square of seats. It was an unusual setup, but I liked it, and it worked surprisingly well. Fun Home tells the story of Alison Bechdel (Beth Malone), a lesbian cartoonist reflecting back on her childhood, particularly her relationship with her closeted gay father, Bruce (Michael Cerveris). Fun Home is the first major Broadway play to feature a lesbian protagonist, which is surprising considering the general liberality of the New York theater scene.

Fun Home is a musical, and was, of course, filled with songs. At first, I wasn’t sure I liked the songs, simply because they felt a little awkward within the play. But as the show went on, I realized that that was at least partly intentional, as it was meant to convey the awkwardness of childhood, of growing up, and of life in a repressed and secretive household. Not only did the songs make more sense as the play went on, but they also seemed fuller and richer somehow — perhaps I’m reading too much into it, but I suspect that this was meant to convey how Alison was figuring out who she was and what she was meant to do.

The acting was truly top-notch, with Gabriella Pizzolo playing a remarkable and opinionated young Alison, Emily Skeggs playing a “Medium” college-age Alison who is just discovering herself, and Beth Malone playing the adult Alison trying to figure out what it all meant. They all come together to form a fascinating, deep individual that you can’t stop thinking about. All of the other actors and actresses did a fantastic job, but in particular Michael Cerveris, as the father, was astounding. He somehow perfected the role of the conflicted, kind-hearted father struggling with his own desires and shortcomings.

His internal pain was excruciating and felt very real. He deserves all of the awards he received and more. The actors also deserve another commendation for performing so well in the round, which can be more difficult than on a normal stage. The dialogue in the play was quick and sharp and got its point across effortlessly. It never felt rushed or overdone or out of place.

The script was excellent. The score flowed well with the songs, increasingly so as the play progressed. In short, Fun Home is a masterpiece of American theater that highlights the struggles that so many gay Americans have faced, internally and externally, for generations. It shows us how the world has changed, and that, through tolerance and time, there is hope.

Sophomore Preman Koshar is the Arts & Entertainment Editor. His email is pkoshar@fandm.edu.

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