BWW Review: FUN HOME at Iowa Stage Theatre
Come to the FUN HOME!
The dearly departed were well cared for at the Bechdel funeral home in small town Pennsylvania. But the same cannot be said of the Bechdel family themselves.
This family shows several signs of trauma, especially the haunted Alison, who struggles with her past and the man who raised her.
So it goes in "Fun Home," the achingly beautiful music that kicks off the second season for Iowa Stage Theatre. This show runs September 28 - October 14, 2018 at the Kum & Go Theatre in Des Moines.
This story speaks to one family and all families torn up by secrets and lies.
You see, when Bruce (played by the talented Craig Petersen) wasn't busy at the Fun Home (what his family jokingly called the mortuary) he was having dalliances on the sly.
The show focuses on Bruce's relationship with Alison, who appears in triplicate. She is a tomboy in her youth (played with a wisdom beyond her years by Amara Feitelson), an Oberlin student (Poni Lejukole) awakening to her lesbianism and an ever present cartoonist and author (Rae Davis Fehring) recalling and reconciling her past. Or at least trying to.
Drawing from Alison Bechdel's autobiographical graphic novel, Director Katy Merriman and her production team have created something very special. The show is unconventional in its diversity of characters and its subject matter. It's also uncompromising in its intelligence and emotionality. Songs are revealing and personal - whether it's a break your heart ballad, such as "Days and Days" delivered by Bruce's wife, Helen (Erin Horst); a poignant coming of age revelation, like "I'm Changing My Major to Joan" (Poni Lejukole); or a fantasy number with colorful costuming and creative choreography, as depicted in "Raincoat of Love."
This production, from the music and art direction to the set, lighting and sound design has been intentional about making every moment - light, dark and disturbing - totally honest and creatively staged. Merriman has established a great cast. The three Alisons are wonderful - be prepared to grab your tissues as they share a soaring rendition of "Flying Away" in beautiful blended harmony. The young Bechdel brothers, John and Christian (Jack Gabby and Jacob Forney) along with their sister young Alison bring a youthful exuberance and well-timed humor to the show's signature song, "Fun Home." Connor Ripperger is versatile and endearing in his many roles as the subject of Bruce's affection and affliction. Abigail Feldman brings intelligence and a warm approachability to her role as Alison's girlfriend, Joan. Craig Petersen is a multi-dimensional marvel as the tormented Bruce, and Erin Horst will leave a lump in your throat, then take your heart and stomp on it with her poignant portrayal as his long suffering wife, Helen.
Be glad you didn't live here. But this "Fun Home" is an unforgettable place to visit. Don't miss out!
The mission of Iowa Stage Theatre Company is to transform Iowa, its citizens, and arts community by producing truthful, relevant, and intimate theatre that inspires, enlightens, and entertains. This production is in partnership with One Iowa.