Review: ‘Fun Home’ at Ground Floor Theatre

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At back left, Dave Hawks as Roy and Sarah Marie Curry as adult Alison. Center, front L-R: Devin Gramling as Christian, Mariela Denson as Small Alison, and Eric Judge as John. Back: Jim Lindsay as Bruce and Alejandra Murga as Helen. Images courtesy Ground Floor Theatre.

Earlier this week, I went to see Ground Floor Theatre’s production of Fun Home, 2015’s Tony winner for Best Musical.  Along with a sold-out audience of about 120 in the small venue, I saw an at times tear-jerking, and at other times laugh-out-loud story of a young woman’s journey from child to adult within a repressed family that hides explosive secrets.

Fun Home is the true story of the life of cartoonist Alison Bechdel, based on her award-winning graphic memoir of the same name (and her family’s joking name for the funeral home they owned in a small Pennsylvania town, where her father was also a high school English teacher).

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Sarah Marie Curry as adult Alison narrates while drawing her memoir

Three actors portray Alison as the action jumps back and forth through time, showing different vignettes in her life. Sarah Marie Curry plays the adult Alison, narrating most of the action from her drafting table. Taylor Flanagan plays Middle Alison as she leaves home and heads off to Oberlin College. Mariela Denson opens the play as Small Alison, still living at home with her parents and two brothers.

The three show her as she figures out first that she’s different, and later that she is gay. While in itself momentous, this happens along with the near-simultaneous discovery that her beloved father is in the closet and having affairs with young men. As the story plays out, we see the consequences for Alison and the rest of her family.

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Taylor Flanagan (right) as Middle Alison talks with college friend Joan (Sandra May Frank)

While the whole company gives enjoyable performances, the three Alisons shine. The the musical numbers are rollicking and heartwrenching by turns, sung to the accompaniment of a six-piece live orchestra. Particular favorites include the poignant “Welcome to our House on Maple Avenue,” sung by the whole Bechdel family and “Changing my Major,” by Middle Alison in the ecstatic first flush of new love. The finale includes a wonderful number of all three Alisons singing together in “Flying Away.”

Fun Home at Ground Floor Theatre is highly recommended. It continues through December 22.

Featured image on homepage shows (L-R) Sarah Marie Curry as adult Alison, Mariela Denson as Small Alison, and Taylor Flanagan as Middle Alison singing the finale.

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