Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Fun Home
Studio Theatre
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's recent review of 1776


Andrea Prestinario, Teddy Schechter,
Rebecca Pitcher, August Scott McFeaters,
Quinn Titcomb, and Bobby Smith

Photo by Teresa Castracane
Studio Theatre in Washington is very selective about the musicals it produces, and its production of Fun Home is an all-around gem: beautifully cast and given a clever and innovative staging by director David Muse, with a story of a singular family that speaks to audiences with both rich humor and deep empathy.

The musical, based on Alison Bechdel's autobiographical graphic novel, received five Tony Awards in 2015 including Best Musical. Composer Jeanine Tesori and lyricist Lisa Kron became the first all-female team to receive the Best Score honor, and Kron also won for Best Book.

Where previous stagings of Fun Home have used realistic furniture and settings to present the personal history of adult Alison (Andrea Prestinario, magnetic and moving) as her memories appear before her, Debra Booth's scenic design takes a different approach. The primary setting in the intimate Mead Theatre is the graphic design studio where Alison is creating her memoir, making her way through her thoughts and mementoes as scenes of the past come to life. Imagination, then, is a major component of this production, and attentive audience members will experience the full range of emotions through Alison's journey.

Alison views her life through two incarnations of herself at younger ages: Small Alison (Quinn Titcomb, a dynamic 10-year-old giving a remarkably nuanced performance) and college-age Medium Alison (Maya Jacobson). She lives with her two brothers, Christian (August Scott McFeaters) and John (Teddy Schechter), mother Helen (Rebecca Pitcher), and father Bruce (Bobby Smith) in a Victorian home the family renovated in Bruce's small hometown, Beech Creek, Pennsylvania. Both parents are high school English teachers, Helen acts in local theater and plays the piano, and Bruce is also the town's funeral director (the "fun home" of the title).

Alison's ruminations jump across time as she examines how the past influences the present and what that could mean for the future. Small Alison demonstrates her aversion to wearing "girly" clothes and describes the sense of kinship she feels seeing a rugged-looking delivery woman in a diner. Medium Alison looks more deeply into herself in college and falls in love and lust with outspoken Joan (Thani Brant). However, as she's discovering herself, she's also learning that her father is living behind a fa├žade and she discovers the reason for the underlying tension she's been feeling for all those years.

That sounds melodramatic and depressing, which it is not; while the story is often sad, it resolves with a catharsis for both Alison and the audience. Smith ably shows the gradations of Bruce's personality, judging what he can do in each situation and concealing what he feels he must, while Pitcher gives an aching performance as Helen finally releases the secrets she's been forced to keep. But there are also laugh-out-loud moments, such as when Small Alison and her brothers rehearse a mock commercial for their family business in the style of the Jackson 5, choreographed delightfully by Ashleigh King.

Sarah Cubbage's costumes bring the styles and sometimes loud prints of the 1970s back to life; Brian Tovar's lighting design ably shifts among realistic, introspective, and broadly theatrical as needed; and music director Darren R. Cohen joins six other accomplished musicians performing in a variety of styles.

Fun Home runs through August 20, 2023, in at Studio Theatre, Mead Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW, Washington DC. For tickets and information, please call 202-332-3300 or visit www.studiotheatre.org.

Music by Jeanine Tesori
Book and lyrics by Lisa Krom
Based on the graphic novel by Alison Bechdel
Directed by David Muse
Music director: Darren R. Cohen

Alison: Andrea Prestinario
Medium Alison: Maya Jacobson
Small Alison: Quinn Titcomb
Bruce Bechdel: Bobby Smith
Helen Bechdel: Rebecca Pitcher
Christian Bechdel: August Scott McFeaters
John Bechdel: Teddy Schechter
Roy/Mark/Pete/Bobby Jeremy: Adante Carter
Joan: Thani Brant


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