‘Fun Home’ is a must-see theater experience A witty, endearing musical of serious themes

Joan, played by Holly Gould, watches as Medium Alison, played by Caitlin Kinnunen, draws. Photo by Hubert Schriebl

By David Lampe-Wilson
©2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Weston Playhouse continues its inaugural year at the new Second Stage at Walker Farm with the Tony Award-winning musical Fun Home.

And it is everything a theatergoer hopes for — it entertains, it enlightens, it engages. The production never puts a foot wrong and we are rewarded with gem of an evening.

Based on Vermont author Alison Bechdel’s memoir/graphic novel, Lisa Kron’s book and lyrics with Jeanine Testori’s music capture the essence of Bechdel’s very complicated work and turns it into a musical of childhood trauma — a memory play/comic strip of lies and evasiveness.

Alison reflects on memories of pleasing her father. Photo by Hubert Schriebl

While its themes and story — Bechdel grappling with her dysfunctional family, her sexuality, and her father’s suicide — is a serious affair, this musical is a witty and endearing look at grief, sexuality and the search for happiness.

As the show unfolds, we meet Bechdel at three life stages — Alison (Andrea Prestinario), Medium Alison (Caitlin Kinnunen) and Small Alison (Ava Vercellone). The musical — with Alison ever present — ping-pongs between her early years and her college years as she watches her life unfold and attempts to face the truth of her family. Prestinario’s approach demonstrates a delicacy that is refined and polished and is a joy to watch. Kinnunen’s self-discovery alternates from witty to heartbreaking, while Vercellone brings unbridled energy tempered by caution about her surroundings. They are a winning triumvirate.

But while the three Alisons tell the story in vibrant song and rich harmonies, this is a voyage around her father Bruce, played by Weston regular David Bonanno in one of his best performances.

Small Alison (Ava Vercellone) and Bruce (David Bonanno) at the diner. Photo by Hubert Schriebl

There are so many different shades to the character and Bonanno has approached them with a surprising subtlety and finesse. He is partnered with Susan Haefner as his wife Helen, a character who must face her worst fears and lingering doubts about a marriage that is teetering on the edge of despair.

They are ably assisted by Holly Gould, Adam Shonkwiler, Emmett Smyth and Ryder Scott, who round out this outstanding cast of characters.

Director Malcolm Ewen, with excellent assist from Music Director Dan Pardo, brings life and pace to this short chamber piece. The show is in constant flux but is direct and understandable. More importantly, they have honed this fine cast into a perfect ensemble that presents us with a vibrant, rhythmic evening of musical pastiche and a courageous story  tempered by  irony and tenderness.

Alison at different stages of life focusing on happy moments with her father. Photo by Tim Fort

Production values are high: Howard C. Jones’ scenic design is both fluid and functional; Mara Blumefeld’s costumes capture mood and spirit of the various times; Stuart Duke’s lighting keeps us focused on the story while allowing us to discover some of the nuances of the fringes of many scenes.

Rich and rewarding, Fun Home is one theater experience you cannot afford to miss.

Fun Home runs through July 28 at Second Stage at Walker Farm, 705 Main St., Weston. Performances are Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; Wednesday and Saturday matinee at 2 p.m.; Sunday at 3 p.m.

For information, call 802-824-5288. For tickets, click here.

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Filed Under: Community and Arts LifeIn the ArtsReviews

About the Author: After 30 years as a theater critic and arts editor for a Connecticut daily newspaper, David Lampe-Wilson transplanted to Vermont with his wife and two cats.

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