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Cartoonist's Memoir Takes the Stage

Kate Baker

Alison Bechdel, cartoonist and author, did what most people simply don't-can't-won't: she told her story. In Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, the graphic memoir, Bechdel created an intensely personal yet transcendent relief of forming an identity amidst a mass of influences. Navigating familial tensions, sexual awakening and culture clash with a natural humor that oozes sincerity, from start to finish her creation is remarkable. When I found this graphic novel had been adapted into a musical, of course I jumped at the chance to see it.

Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori translated Bechdel's work into a heart-filled one-act experience that can be described as genuinely satisfying and extremely well performed by the Armory Theater's cast and orchestra. The musical numbers were delicately placed within relatively heavy contexts and provided a thread of levity throughout the piece that offered balance without distraction. However, as opposed to focusing on the development of an individual's identity, the musical adaption of Fun Home seemed to shift the storyline to centralize the relationship between Alison and her father, the harmony, and dissonance between their lives and identities. This decision to reframe, while excluding some cornerstones of the original work, was accomplished with grace. Fun Home treats the subject matter of the story with sensitivity, portraying coming out and coming into one's own without hyper-sexualizing or trivializing the experience of characters. Overall, the musical version of Fun Home is fun, lively, thought-provoking and emotionally engaged.

Photo: funhomebroadway.com