A great coming-of-age story is more than the story of one character, and is told in more than one way. For Fun Home, a musical based on the graphic novel of the same name by Alison Bechdel, a story is told through many people’s actions and inactions, as a girl is portrayed in three life-stages discovering and understanding her sexuality. Family history, relationships, and goals all play influencing roles in this evolving plot, featuring emotional and relatable performances.
This production of Fun Home came about from collaboration between some heavy-hitters in the Richmond theater scene, the Virginia Repertory Theatre and the Cadence Theatre Company. Directed by Chase Kniffen with musical direction by Anthony Smith, and choreography by Kikau Alvaro, this effort produced a nuanced performance, drawing the best talents from some strong theatre work. Playing at the Theatre Gym, a small but powerful stage inside the Virginia Rep Center, the production transforms every inch available into an immersive set. Kudos to the design team of Rich Mason (scenic design), Joe Doran (lighting design), and Sarah Grady (costume design). A note: There are seats incorporated into the stage, which may seem uncomfortable at first, but will provide you with an intimate look at this emotional performance you will be thankful you saw up close.
The childhood thoughts, fuzzy stories, and remembered episodes that weave together the main arc are told through the brainstorms of the eldest version of Alison (expertly played by veteran Becca Ayers), a cartoonist who leafs through her past to reflect on the events that formed her as a person. But it is not the work of just one Alison that ties this show together – the iterations of the main character work beautifully as a trio (Ayers, Elizabeth Wyld, and Violet Craghead-Way) spanning innocence to discovery to reflection, with soul-searching expertise in each song along the way. Not only do these actresses provide a sense of true relationship, they each embody specific elements that encompass Alison, giving the audience a well-acted focal point throughout the musical.
Grappling with family life and personal life is a recurring theme throughout this musical, and one that would be lost on less experienced actors without a strong bond. The work of Elizabeth Wyld and Duke Lafoon, playing the college-aged Alison and her father, highlight the drama of coming out for young people and the after-effects in a realistic and powerful way. This tension comes to a point on the excellent “Telephone Wire,” showing the stunted communication between father and daughter that drives the musical’s climax.
Leaving this production, I thought about how different members of the audience could interpret this Tony Award winning musical. Recommended for sixteen and up, there are stories within this play for families for college students finding themselves, and for all people in or out of LGBTQ culture.
This musical, through the talent of all ages in this collaborative production, elevates an excellent storyline to an emotional level and reaches out to all audience members – leaving them with an experience of the arts they won’t forget.
Fun Home from Cadence Theatre in partnership with Virginia Rep runs through October 8 at Theatre Gym at Virginia Rep Center. For showtimes and ticket, go here.