Amanda Naughton and Jim Stanek in "Fun Home." Photo by Daren Scott
The “fun home” in Alison Bechdel’s childhood and adolescence is what she and her siblings call their father’s funeral home – his side business when he’s not teaching English. On the surface, there’s a lot of fun going on in the family’s actual home. But then neither young Alison nor her siblings know that their dad is gay and that he’s having relationships outside the home and his marriage. In Fun Home, the acutely thoughtful musical by Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron based on Bechdel’s graphic novel, the grown Alison (Amanda Naughton) tells the story not only of her father’s tortured double life but of her own coming to terms with her sexual identity, and her coming out.
Alison is also seen as a child (on opening night played by Taylor Coleman) and a college student (Claire Adams), giving Fun Home a three-pronged, multidimensional narrative, with Naughton as the omnipresent narrator. Aside from Naughton’s steady performance and equally penetrating turns from Jim Stanek as father Bruce and Bets Malone as mother Helen, Fun Home successfully makes a very personal story feel universal. Its score is up and down, and the kids’ dance scenes are little more than distracting, but there’s no missing Fun Home’s declarations on love and truth to oneself.
(Review originally published in San Diego CityBeat on 9/26/18.)
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.