Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron
Also see David's recent review of The Whipping Man
The script is powerful. Alison is presented at three age periods and played by three actresses. The grown-up Alison (Kate Shindle) tells the story and paces the stage watching her life relived before her eyes and, in some ways, she supervises her life. Young Alison (Alessandra Baldacchino, and Carly Gold at some performances) lives at home with her parents and two siblings (Lennon Nate Hammond as John and Pierson Salvador as Christian) and has wars with her father. He demands that she wear a dress to a birthday party "You don't want people talking about you," he threatens. She wants to wear slacks and "boy shoes." He wins this battle. Later, Young Alison tries her hand at drawingmaybe her first steps in cartooning. Bruce rages because her drawing isn't what he wants her to do for a school project.
Medium Alison (Abby Corrigan) goes to college, discovers the Gay Union, discovers Joan, and realizes she's a lesbian. She writes to her parents and shares the news, her discoveries but they don't respond. In desperation she telephones them and doesn't get the response she hoped for; her mother tells her that her father has had relationships with other men. Later, Alison has to confront the juxtaposition of her coming out and her father's death.
On opening night, Alessandra Baldacchino was too soft spoken at times; she needs to get her volume up a few degrees. But she plays the emotions correctly and communicates Young Alison's emotions to the audience. Abby Corrigan plays the role all actresses should want. Medium Alison makes discoveries and changesthat's what a well-written character does. Corrigan plays those changes well and it is a pleasure to watch her character make those discoveries. She dances with delight when she realizes she's a lesbian.
Kate Shindle gives Alison the style and courage of an adult. Shindle plays with determination. Alison may make errors but she's capable of love for her family, for herself, and for her talent as an artist. Shindle has a fine singing voice and, in another play, could belt out the songs.
Alison's mother Helen (Susan Moniz) seems defeated by the life she constructed for herself. The wife and mother gets lost in the furniture; I often had to look for her on the stage. Moniz fights a script that gives her a demanding role and, yet, she's too pale, too soft spoken. There are lines that show Helen confronting her husband, but these, too, get lost. This character says she studied acting and indicates she had the potential for a successful career. Yet she seems to be played one note.
As Bruce, Robert Petkoff has a difficult role. He couldn't be a nicer, kinder father and yet he suddenly explodes in a rage against his daughter. Usually, emotions build, but we don't see this. Petkoff plays the hints that his character is gay and the audience sees his sexual frustration when attractive young men (played by Robert Hager) are in the scene. Bruce teaches English at a local high school and is a part-time funeral director. This results in one intriguing scene in which his children play in a coffin and create a commercial they perform in and around the coffin ("Come to the Fun Home").
The orchestra is on stage with the cast and is visible throughout most of the performance. The music is melancholy and contributes to the mood and style of the show. However, the music does not invite people to remember the melodies. The songs contribute to the show only by moving the plot along and helping develop characters.
The set reflects Bruce's love of redecorating old houses and making them more "museum like." Sam Gold (director) makes good use of the set and treats it as a major character in the production. He has done an excellent job of helping the three actresses playing Alison to merge as one. Never, for one second, did I think of these three as separate characters. His lead actors bring extensive experience to the show. I do wish he had helped Moniz have more backbone as Helen.
The script is much like a cartoon. The story is told in disjointed scenes and time jumps out of chronological order. However, the script and the score work. I can't say this is a happy musical. However, it is an engaging, holding story that kept me glued to the stage, watching an excellent team of actors make a memorable evening in the theater.
Fun Home, through October 22, 2016, Connor Palace, Playhouse Square. For ticket information, call 216-640-8800 or visit playhousesquare.org. For more information on the tour, visit funhomebroadway.com/tour.php.
Music: Jeanine Tesori