FUN HOME (national tour at Forrest Theatre): Hiding who you are is likely to be tragic


Photo credit: Joan Marcus

That’s fun as in funeral home. And that’s the bittersweet tone of this Tony-winning musical, FUN HOME, at the Forrest Theatre through June 18.  Although this vast theater isn’t the best venue for such an intimate play, this production still manages to be moving, even on such a big, distancing stage. Sam Gold, who directed the 2015 Broadway production has redirected this cast on tour.

Alison Bechdel’s best-selling graphic memoir FUN HOME was adapted by Lisa Kron (book and lyrics) and Jeanine Tesori (music). The show begins as a memory play with the 43-year-old Alison (Kate Shindle) trying to reconstruct her past, sketching her world, remembering her childhood; the first song is called, “It All Comes Back” and we watch her young self (Carly Gold) sing, “Daddy! Hey, Daddy, come here, okay? I need you.”

The show chronicles Alison’s discovery of her homosexuality, from the young girl who is dazzled by a woman she sees in a diner who was “old school butch” with her dungarees and short hair and ring of keys, to the middle Alison (the charming Abby Corrigan) in her freshman year at Oberlin coming out as gay both to herself and her parents.

Daddy (Robert Petkoff) is the large and central fact of Alison’s life, a man obsessed with restoring old houses, collecting old furniture, polishing silver—trying to get to some truth below the tarnished surface. The truth of his life is that he is a closeted gay man with a history of spurious sex on the sly; a corny lyric tells us, “Their tawdry love could only flourish in the shadows,” giving the lighting designer, Ben Stanton, a great opportunity, although too much of the show seems to exist in shadow, hiding the onstage band and creating general murk everywhere.

Alison’s long-suffering mother (Susan Moniz, in excellent voice) seems helpless as he bullies her three children with misused parental authority. Alison, like many neglected children, is utterly devoted to Daddy, and her mother warns her not to come home, not to give up her life as she did, in the powerful song, “Days and Days.”

FUN HOME is both a musical and a family drama; it’s also an activist declaration: hiding who you are is likely to be tragic.

[Forrest Theatre, 1114 Walnut Street] June 13-18, 2017 (additional dates in other cities);


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About the author

Toby Zinman

Toby Zinman is Professor of English at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was a Fulbright professor at Tel Aviv University and a visiting professor in China. She publishes widely and lectures internationally on American drama. Her fifth book, Replay: Classic Modern Drama Reimagined, was recently published by Methuen, and she has just finished an essay, "Visions of Tragedy in Contemporary American Drama," due out in 2017. Zinman is also the chief theater critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. She was named by American Theatre magazine as, “one of the 12 most influential critics in America.” Her travel writing has taken her all over the world, from dogsledding in the Yukon to hiking across England.