September 30, 2023


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Theater review: ‘Fun Home’ a journey to understanding | Arts & Theatre

Tennessee Williams reportedly wrote in his generation notes for “The Glass Menagerie” that because it was a “memory participate in,” it could be “presented with unconventional independence of convention.”

A Mill Mountain Theatre forged and crew has used these flexibility of conference to superb outcome in Alison Bechdel’s “Fun Residence.” The second demonstrate in the theater’s 2022 Fringe sequence has one particular weekend remaining on the Waldron Stage.

Bechdel based mostly this distinctive and partaking musical on memories of her youth and her connection with her father, a complex man whom she has devoted coronary heart and soul to being familiar with.

The show’s tone is generally great humored and upbeat — apart from for when it just cannot be, when the cracks in the delighted relatives facade multiply and expand like fault lines in the earth. Some really big plot details arise early on, and the tale is less about making toward an unpredicted summary than about the messy organization of processing one’s earlier.

We fulfill a few Alisons for the duration of this taut, 90-minute clearly show: a tiny female, a college co-ed and a working adult. The latter is virtually sketching her reminiscences into a graphic novel — the genuine-life memoir “Fun Home” that produced the New York Occasions bestseller record in 2006.

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Hayley Palmer plays grown-up Alison with thoughtful subtlety. She weaves her existence during the action, as narrator, observer or player in different sequences of her existence, with a fantastic deadpan shipping and delivery for some of the show’s funnier strains.

Dad is played by Michael Hunsaker, in a potent performance that ranges from blustering at his family to walking on eggshells, manifesting an interior turmoil from which he can not escape. The true Bruce Bechdel cobbled collectively a curious bouillabaisse of professions: English teacher, home remodeler and funeral household operator. “Fun Household,” it turns out, is the family’s nickname for the mortuary company, not to point out a tragi-comedian enjoy on words.

Carlyn Connolly delivers a heartbreaking dignity to Helen, Alison’s lengthy-suffering mom, who guards her little ones as finest she can from the riptides beneath the surface area of their outwardly pleased residence.

Riley Whisnant, a mounting seventh grader at Roanoke Catholic University and an MMT normal, performs youthful Alison and continues to present some really serious performing chops. Stephanie Berger portrays higher education-age Alison with all the poignant vulnerability of a young girl grappling with a profound everyday living passage. That passage entails her newfound faculty spouse Joan, whom Alexandra Rivers plays with sympathetic aplomb.

Rounding out this top-notch cast are Josh Romeo and Lillian Salazar as Alison’s brothers, and Isaac Bouldin as Roy. All are marvelous in lesser roles that even so insert essential notes to Alison’s lifetime.

This could not have been an quick story to set to music, but between numerous stand-by yourself figures and a honest volume of recitative, it works smashingly well, with kudos to audio director Dan Pardo and the cast’s fantastic voices.

“Fun Home” opened last weekend, arriving on the Mill Mountain phase in June to coincide with Delight Month. As director Katharine Quinn writes in her program notes, “Three-dimensional queer characters continue to be underrepresented in musical theater.” Provided its themes of sexual discovery and revelation, the clearly show is most effective suited for experienced audiences.

The output crew hopes Bechdel’s story will inspire dialogue in the broader community. But even for individuals with no touchstone in the LGBTQ+ earth, “Fun Home” is at its heart a human tale that speaks to us all.