THEATER REVIEW: “Fun Home” @ Proctors, 10/31/17
Review by Greg Haymes
“I want to know what’s true
Dig deep into who
And what and why and when
Until now gives way to then…”
It’s not your typical Broadway musical blockbuster, brimming over with big, flashy production numbers and happily-ever-after love songs.
Instead, Fun Home – in a superb, sublime production running at Proctors in Schenectady through Sunday – is an achingly intimate, emotionally charged show about memory and loss and a complex father-daughter relationship.
If it weren’t so personal, if it didn’t cut so close to the bone, Fun Home might be mistaken for just another one of those small-town-life-is-never-as-perfect-as-it-seems tales.
And, no question about it, the Bechdel family has its share of secrets lurking below the placid surface. When they sing the cheery “Welcome to Our House on Maple Avenue” early in the show, you just know that the song will return later in a darker, minor-key reprise. And if you didn’t catch the drift by the first chorus, you were certainly clued in by the end of the song, when Alison sings, “My dad and I both grew up in the same small Pennsylvania town, and he was gay, and I was gay, and he killed himself, and I became a lesbian cartoonist.”
Based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel memoir, “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomedy,” the 95-minute show flows back and forth through time, with three different actors – Kate Shindle as the narrator/present-day Alison, Carly Gold as nine-year-old Small Alison and Abby Corrigan as college-age Medium Alison – playing the same main character at different stages of her life.
They all shine, especially Corrigan in her giddy, euphoric declaration, “Changing My Major,” after losing her virginity to Oberlin classmate Joan (Victoria Janicki).
As her father Bruce, Robert Petkoff is pitch perfect – in both singing and acting. His tour de force performance of “Edges of the World” is literally breathtaking, and his duet with Shindle on “Telephone Wire” is crackling with palpable tension and anxiety.
Played by keyboardist-musical director Micah Young and his small, onstage band, the music by Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Krone is smart, sophisticated and splendid, ranging from the romping, Jackson 5-like “Come to the Fun Home” by Small Alison and her brothers (played with plenty of exuberance by Luke Barbato Smith and Henry Boshart) to the heartwrenching “Days and Days,” the showcase number for Bruce’s long-suffering wife Helen (Susan Moniz).
While, Fun Home might be better suited to a somewhat smaller venue, director Sam Gold fills the Proctors stage without ever making the action seem gratuitously over-extended.
Oh, and by the way, what exactly is a “fun home” anyway? It’s what Small Alison and her brothers call the Bechdel family business – a funeral home…