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IN “FUN HOME,” THE MUSICAL
 One may learn to understand our differences
By Iride Aparicio

Photo Credit: Kevin Berne

Small Alison (Lila Gold) being taught to fly by Bruce (James Lloyd Reynolds)
Small Alison (Lila Gold) being taught to fly by Bruce (James Lloyd Reynolds)

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA – It may be a “minor” detail, but it was interesting that in the first scene of  FUN HOME the musical, based on American cartoonist ALISON BECHDEL graphic novel chronicling her childhood at home, her first remembrance of her father Bruce (JAMES LlOYD REYNOLDS), that is related to the audience by “Alison adult” (MOIRA STONE), is of him, laying down on his back on the carpet, balancing her on her tummy (as a kid) on the soles of his feet, as both open their arms to simulate that they are flying.

The musical's scene, under the masterful Direction of TheatreWorks  Silicon Valley's Artistic Director ROBERT KELLEY, may be interpreted as a metaphor in which both father and daughter, playing their game, experience the freedom of  “let go” and could, for a few minutes, free the repressed “other gender” that both are hiding inside themselves.

Maybe, at this early stage, their subconscious minds are still struggling to accept their real feelings. Perhaps, both sense them, but refuse to admit them to themselves. So the father tells his daughter that we all, need real wings, as both laugh enjoying the feeling that they are drifting, like airplanes on the wind, with  Bruce opening his hands and  fingers, showing the audience in his body movements, his longing to open up, and express his feelings.

The BECHDEL family. L- to- r Jack Barrett, Lila Gold, Billy Hutton Crissy Guerrero (the mother)  James Lloyd Reynolds (the father) and Moira stone
The BECHDEL family. L- to- r Jack Barrett, Lila Gold, Billy Hutton Crissy Guerrero (the mother)  James Lloyd Reynolds (the father) and Moira stone

“FUN HOUSE,” is the name that the Bechdel family members, jokingly, call their home. The family, father Bruce, mother Helen, daughter Alison, and  sons Christian and John, is an “average” American family, if one can call “average” a family who lives in a funeral home.

Bruce, a former teacher, is mortician, who at times, shows his children what he does for a living, inviting them to the back room to watch him prepare “his customers” for viewing, and whose children hiding inside the coffins for sale, play hide-and-seek. 

In one of the funniest scenes, in the musical, after coming out of their hiding place, the children start singing and dancing a Rock Song, that stopped the show.

L-to-R Jack Barrett, Lila Gold and Billy Hutton
L-to-R Jack Barrett, Lila Gold and Billy Hutton

We learn during the musical without intermission, that characters  in the family, hold many secrets. The secrets are revealed to us in bits and pieces, like the pieces of a puzzle, in songs, in conversations, or just by observing the way the characters stare at each other, with lust in their eyes while talking.

L-to-R Ayelet Firstenberg andMedium Alison Erin Kommor
L-to-R Ayelet Firstenberg and Medium Alison Erin Kommor

And  as we look at each piece (each scene) we need to think where does it fit?

The musical is structured like a puzzle because its action is non linear. The incidents are told, and at times re-told, by Alison Adult, in short scenes. Many times the scenes going over the same material, as if she was remembering them, at random, but adding new memories the second time around. Alison's ”memories” are also presented as allusions where the works of Greek Myth and literature seem to blend into Alison’s mind creating  a new truth.

A scene in Alison’s mind where the characters are Literature characters
A scene in Alison’s mind where the characters are Literature characters

Because of the Musical's structure, at times, the audience sees Alison as a small child (RUTH KEITH) and both her brothers as children (JACK BARRETT as Christian and BILLY HUTTON as John)  and other times  Alison as college student (ERIN KOMMOR) and older Christian (DYLAN KENTO) and older John (OLIVER COPAKEN YELLIN)  and Alison as an adult (MOIRA STONE) relating us the action, standing, behind a Drawing table, at a the front corner of Stage Left, drawing it..

Yet the last  piece that could complete our puzzle, in this coming of age story, that touches subjects  such as dysfunctional family life, gender roles, sexual orientation, emotional abuse, music, laughter, pain and the role literature plays in understanding one self was apparently never found by Alison.

A car ride of Alison adult (STONE) and father (REYNOlDS)
A car ride of Alison adult (STONE) and father (REYNOLDS)

As the audience. we must leave the puzzle unfinished, because the last piece is not given to us by Alison. It is interesting, because we leave the theatre wondering what did Father and daughter talk about on that night when they went out together for a ride. What did they talk about? Did they revealed their secrets to each other? And did their mutual revelations caused what happened next?

In 2003,  with book and Lyrics written by Obie Award-winner LISA KRON and score composer JEANINE TESORY,  FUN HOUSE the Graphic book became a musical that was presented at The Public Theater. The musical was Directed by SAM GOLD,.

Since then, FUN HOUSE has been a popular and critical success and spent two weeks in the New York Times Best Seller list in 2006. The book has also nominated for several Awards the National Book Critics Circle Award and three Eisner Awards one of which won. It also have been the subject of several academic publications in areas such as Biography and Cultural Studies. Other awards include the LUCILLE LORTED AWARD for Outstanding Musical, the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Musical, and the Obie Award for Musical Theater. The Broadway production opened in April 2015  and earned dozen nominations, winning the Tony Award for Best Musical.

FUN HOUSE will continue at Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St. in Mountain View until October 28, 2017. For information or to order tickets call (650) 463-1960 or go online to TheatreWorks.org.