Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
Also see Rebecca's review of Mamma Mia!
Fun Home is adapted from Alison Bechdel's critically acclaimed 2006 graphic memoir, and 43-year-old Alison (Mary Tuomanen) is our narrator. Alison's memories come to life on stage in a series of non-linear vignettes as she works to illustrate a novel that will tell the story of her strange childhood and collegiate sexual awakening. Ten-year-old Alison (Kate Bove) plays airplane with her father Bruce (Ben Dibble) and makes up jingles for the family funeral home with her brothers Christian and John (Charles LaMonaca and Lyam David-Kilker). Nineteen-year-old Alison(Izzy Castaldi) has trouble adjusting to college life and falls head over heels in love with Joan (Jackie Soro). Bruce's compulsive tendencies and clandestine affairs with other men cast a long shadow over Alison's life, but ultimately Alison's story is about love and hope.
Tuomanen is brilliant as present day Alison, world weary and a little neurotic on the surface but compellingly earnest in her quest to understand her past. Castaldi is adorably enthusiastic and a joy to watch as Alison at 19. Bove displays a talent beyond her years as the insightful and perpetually frustrated 10-year-old Alison. Dibble's nuanced performance keeps Bruce sympathetic without downplaying his dark side. Kim Carson plays Alison's long suffering mother with restraint until her explosive rendition of "Days and Days" brings down the house. The cast's obvious comfort with the material and each other contribute to the sense of an authenticif dysfunctionalfamily dynamic.
The tremendous stagecraft in this production elevates the work of the exceptional ensemble. James Kronzer's deceptively simple set is the stark white of a blank page just waiting to be filled in. Rosemarie McKelvey's excellent costume designs evoke the 1960s and '70s. The lighting design by Thom Weaver and sound design by Jorge Cousineau are perfection.
They say that a great graphic novel is all about what happens in between the panels. Fun Home takes a handful of formative moments from Alison Bechdel's young life and gives the audience a powerful sense of connection to the artist, her family, and the struggles that define her life. It is impressive magic in any medium.
Fun Home runs through June 24, 2018, at the Arden Theatre Company's F. Otto Haas Stage, 40 N. 2nd Street, Old City Philadelphia PA. For tickets Call the Box Office at 215-922-1122 or visit www.ardentheatre.org or walk-up at the box office.