Updated: Feb 18, 2020
Fun Home puts the FUN in FUNeral. And dysFUNction. And FUNdamental rights for gays.
The first Broadway musical to feature a lesbian as its main character is coming to Chance Theater.
By Dana Hammer
The holidays are over! Maybe you’re sad about that. Maybe you’re the type of person who loves the winter holidays, who literally roasts chestnuts over an open fire, who sings festive songs with a horde of matching-pajama-clad family members.
But in most families, there’s more stress than joy, more tension than singing, and more drama than sleigh rides. After days of refereeing between Antifa Cousin and Trump Supporter Grandma, I think we all deserve a nice treat. And by treat, I mean laughing at another family’s dysfunction. And by laughing at another family’s dysfunction, I mean seeing “Fun Home” at the Chance Theater.
The show is a musical based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir. For those unfamiliar, Bechdel is an award-winning artist and cartoonist who also founded the “Bechdel Test.” You’ve probably heard of it. In order to pass the Bechdel test, a movie must have two female characters speaking about something other than a man.
The play is about Bechdel’s coming to terms with her sexual orientation, while also coming to terms with her closeted father’s complicated legacy. It’s told in a series of non-linear vignettes, taking us from present day Alison – who is a successful cartoonist – to childhood Alison – who struggles with her demanding father – to “Middle Alison” – the college student coming out as a lesbian.
Chance’s production of “Fun Home” promises to be something special. While typically this play is staged in large houses, the cozy intimacy of the Chance will allow the audience to better connect with the Bechdels.
According to Casey Long, the managing director, “As with any production at the Chance, you’re going to experience the raw emotional power of this incredible story up close and personal. We are changing the seating configuration of our Cripe Stage to have audiences on both sides of the action. This means that, at most, you will be three rows away from the stage. This close proximity will bring you right into the Bechdel Funeral Home and the tumultuous lives of the Bechdel family.”
And of course, there is music. According to Casey Long, “The music is fantastic! The show doesn’t have as many songs as other Broadway musicals, but they are all thrilling and unique. Broadway obviously agreed, making “Fun Home” the first musical to have a female writing team win the Tony Award for Best Score.”
And with song titles like “Sometimes My Father Appeared to Enjoy Having Children,” “I Leapt Out of the Closet,” and “Let Me Introduce You to My Gay Dad” – but also titles like “Flying Away” “Edges of the World” and “Helen’s Etude” – it’s safe to say that the music will make you laugh, make you cry, and generally stir up all of the feelings.
No one’s family is perfect. We all have secrets, grudges, and plain old dysfunctions. We all have people in our families who are complicated, troubled, and hard to deal with. The Bechdels are no different. In “Fun Home,” we see a portrait of a woman with a difficult father. And we also see how generational differences exacerbate – and perhaps cause – these difficulties.
Can we forgive our difficult family members for their choices? Can we understand them, even when their life paths are inconceivable to us? Can we empathize with those from other generations, judging them not by our own standards, but by the standards of the time in which they were raised? Can we come together and love and appreciate each other, even when it’s hard – especially when it’s hard?
Let’s hope so. And if not...there’s always the holidays.
Dana Hammer is a writer and local theater enthusiast living and working in Orange County.
Cripe Stage, Chance Theater at Bette Aitken Theater Arts Center, 5522 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim.
Previews: Jan. 31-Feb. 7. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.
Regular run: Feb. 8-Mar 1. Thu., 7:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 and 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.
(888) 455-4212, www.ChanceTheater.com