Saturday, May 18, 2019

Fun Home at South Puget Sound Community College

Reviewed by Alec Clayton

Fletcher Peterson as Christian Bechdel, Lola May Havens as Alison Bechdel and Lane Nixon as John Bechdel. Photo by Austin Lang

Josie DeRosier, Lola May Havens and Heather Matthews. Photo by Austin Lang
Secrets and lies. Secrets and lies and coming out and a complex family dynamic that is both specific and universal are at the heart of Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori’s musical Fun Home now playing at South Puget Sound Community College. Fun Home is based on the autobiographical graphic novel of the same name by cartoonist and lesbian feminist Alison Bechdel, famous for her long-running comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For.

The play captured the 2015 Tony Award for Best Musical. At SPSCC it is superbly directed by Lauren Love and performed by an outstanding group of actors who throw themselves with conviction into the lives of the Bechdel family members and their friends and lovers. It is Alison’s coming of age story and a fearless look into the depths of her family ― Alison’s reluctant, fearful but ultimately joyful coming out as a lesbian and her troubled relationship with her obsessive and darkly secretive father, Bruce (Ben Mathews) and her long-suffering mother, Helen (Amanda Stevens). The story is told in a non-linear series of vignettes as Alison (Heather Matthews) remembers her childhood, enacted by Lola May Havens as 10-year-old Alison and Josie Derosier as Alison in her freshman year of college.

Bruce is an English teacher who also owns a funeral parlor. He is a demanding father to Alison and his two younger sons, Christian (Fletcher Peterson) and John (Lane Nixon).

In the most upbeat song in the musical, “Come to the Fun Home,” the three young children create an ad for the funeral home that is exuberant and danceable. Upbeat moments like this are woven throughout, but there is a dark undercurrent to the Bechdel family. Something is going on with the father that the kids do not understand, but their mother does, and the kids overhear their parents’ bitter arguments. This drama rings true to life and is something almost any theatergoer should be able to relate to.

One of the most joyful and loving moments in the play is when college student Alison finally admits she is a lesbian and sleeps with Joan (a more world-wise fellow student played with delightful flair by Jesse Morrow). Alison joyfully awakes the next morning and sings “Changing My Major” in which she declares she is changing her major to Joan, to sex with Joan.

Stevens and Matthews are both outstanding singers and actors who pour their hearts ― and their voices ― into the emotionally draining songs “Days” (Stevens) and “Edges of the World” (Matthews).

Multiple scene changes, which can easily wreak havoc on community theater productions are handled seamlessly in this show as scenes change from the Bechdel home to the funeral home to Alison’s college dorm and other locations. The seven-piece orchestra conducted by John Guarente wits on an elevated platform at the back of the stage and provides excellent musical accompaniment.

“Fun Home” is a story of love, confusion, tragedy, and ultimately courage and joy.
It is performed in one act running approximately an hour and a half.

WHAT – Fun Home
WHEN – 7 p.m. May 18 and May 23-25
WHERE - Kenneth J. Minnaert Center for the Arts Main Stage, main entrance to South Puget Sound Community College, 2011 Mottman Rd. SW. Olympia
TICKETS – At the box office or 360-753-8586.

No comments: