FUN HOME – Book and lyrics by Lisa Kron; Music by Jeanine Tesori; Directed by Emma Rebecca Maxwell; Music Direction by Alec Michael Powell. Produced by Vintage Theatre Company (1468 Dayton, Aurora) through February 18. Tickets are available at 303-856-7830 or Vintagetheatre.org.
First of all, congratulations to the leadership and creative team at Vintage Theatre for having faith that they could stage this small musical with big themes in their intimate Bond-Trimble Theatre. Just physically, it seemed a huge task to get all the components of the set on that small stage. And then to add a small but mighty four-piece live “pit” band to the mix! Ouch! But pull it off they did – in spades.
All the necessary pieces of the set were there. A full-sized coffin that allowed the young Bechdel kids a playful hiding space yet kept the specter and reality of death always present. “Fun Home” was how the three irreverent Bechdel children referred to their father’s busy funeral home. The set also had room for a small piano at which Mrs. Bechdel practiced for her musical theatre roles, a college dorm bed that rolled in and out, a faux front seat of a car, a representation of the preparation room of the funeral home AND a semi-comfortable seating area for the musicians. Who – by the way – did an excellent job of balancing the accompaniment of song against the size of the room – supportive without being overpowering. Not an easy task even for a bigger group in a bigger room. Kudos to Katie Burns, Alec Michael Powell, Ethan McGraw and Russ Callison for pulling this off.
Director Emma Maxwell in a directorial debut maneuvered her cast through this maelstrom of emotions, discoveries, music and movement with the understanding of theatrical dynamics she has gained from her own years of performing. Whoever didn’t see her Puck in Phamaly’s MIDSUMMER missed the performance of the summer last year. Her comprehension of the delicate situations depicted in this script was complimented by her understanding of how to stage it with sensitivity and humor.
Of course, it helps that she put together a terrific cast. The musical biography of Alison Bechdel, graphic cartoonist, is told by Small Alison (Mac Vasquez the night I saw it), Medium Alison (River Hetzel) and just plain Alison (Maya Ferrario) as the adult narrator. By dividing the growing-up-story this way, we experience Alison’s gradual understanding of herself. Young Alison only knew that she admired a female delivery person for her “swagger and [her] bearing and the just right clothes [she’s] wearing.” The wonder of first love exploded in Medium Alison with the cute realization that she wanted to “change her major to Joan.” It was the adult Alison that came to realize the delicate dilemma of her conflicted father – afraid of discovery and yet unable to control his urges toward young men.
In this difficult role, Lars Preece walks the fine line between concerned father and slightly smarmy predator. His outbursts toward his confused children and his disappointed wife revealed his own inner terror and sorrow. Lars’ beautiful voice gave life to these feelings in “Edges of the World.”
Alison’s frustrated and sorrowful mother is created by Adrienne Asterita. Beautiful and talented in real life, Helen was a noted actress in local productions. It is easy to imagine how escaping into a role and away from her own dismal home life could have brought her relief. Adrienne illustrated the dichotomy of Helen’s life with grace and understanding. Alison’s siblings were played by Aliyah Dickerson and Henry Duffany. One of the most delightful musical numbers of the evening was the commercial the three came up with for the Bechdel Funeral Home extoling “Welcome to the Fun Home.”
The final two players were Marlene Hall who had the difficult task of providing a sameness yet a slightly different look for each of the father’s young men. Interchangeable and temporary in their role in his life. Joan (played by Elise Brianne Todd) has the excitement of introducing Medium Alison to the joy of sex and of being a strong influence toward maturity for her.
If you can score one of the remaining tickets to this sterling production, grab it. You won’t be disappointed. I just heard this afternoon that they may add another weekend. Get on it!!
A WOW factor of 8.75!!