SCHENECTADY - “Fun Home” is an achingly beautiful musical, that is marvelously performed at Proctors Theatre. The show’s dark intensity might not be for everyone, but those who care for complex characters, provocative themes and haunting music you will have a rich experience at the show.
“Fun Home” is as much a drama as it is musical. However, the music brings emotional depth to the story and the lyrics are as important as is the dialogue. That’s because in song the characters always tell the truth. And this work is about truth – the truth we tell and the truth we cannot even admit to ourselves.
This makes the show about secrets and the weight those secrets bear on the individual and how that weight affects an entire family.
Bruce is a father of three. He teaches at the local high school, runs the family funeral home and is obsessive about restoring his historical home. He is also a gay man. In the 1970’s being gay in a small town meant Bruce was doomed to live in the closet.
The story is told through his daughter, Alison. She too is gay. A cartoonist, she is trying to create a graphic novel that makes sense of her father’s apparent suicide.
Her memories show a man who had flaws, a powerful intellect and a confused sense of self. In a wonderfully conceived way to show Bruce’s relationship to his daughter, Alison is played by three actresses. One a young girl, Alison the college student and the other the mature narrator. The last tells us she is just like her father, but nothing like her father.
She’s right. Bruce lived in an era where he was taught his desires were evil. Alison was born in a time where she was permitted to love herself. “Fun Home” shows that all love stems from love of self. Because she had the freedom to love as she chose, Alison is able to have compassion for her mother and understand her father. That’s the true beauty of “Fun Home.”
This plot description can hardly do justice to the beauty of the material. Though specifically about the problems of a gay man, the work clearly demonstrates the complex relationship all parents have with their children. “Fun Home” is a sensitive look at parents, their relationship with their children and that which exists between husband and wife.
The performances are remarkable as they capture the pain of every individual while showing the deep complexities of these relationships.
Robert Petkoff finds every shading within Bruce. There are moments when he is a man who wants to be the good father and other times when he is simply not up to the task of being a loving man. Put them together and you have a tragic figure.
The other tragic figure is the wife Helen. For most of the hour and a half work she is the perfect 70s wife, avoiding conflict by passive, submissive behavior. Susan Moniz reveals the frustration of the woman layer by layer until her pain of being a neglected wife and an enabler rises to the surface. Only then do we understand how great a toll it takes to live with dark secrets.
Everyone in the cast is ideal. The set makes an intimate story work in the large space and the production values are perfect.
“Fun Home” is a rare musical as it makes pain truthful, eloquent and mysteriously entertaining. It’s great theater that is only in town through Sunday.
“Fun Home” at Proctors Theatre throough Sunday. Tickets and schedule information at 518-346-6204 or proctors.org
Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.
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