by Emily Edelman
The musical “Fun Home,” now on stage at the Ghent Playhouse, is based on the graphic memoir of the same title by cartoonist Alison Bechdel and describes her youth growing up in a funeral home; coming out as a lesbian at college; and grappling as an adult with the unanswered questions surrounding her relationship with her father and his subsequent suicide.
The characters of Alison and Small Alison are played by the mother-daughter duo of Helen Annely and Rosalyn Annely, which allows for an essential understanding in their scenes together. The chemistry between Noah Hamm as Medium Alison and Siobhan Shea as girlfriend Joan was the perfect, first-love balance of sweet and awkward, and Hamm’s rendition of “Changing My Major” was wistful and cathartic — a highlight of the show for me. Jeffrey Jene’s memorable portrayal of Alison’s father, Bruce, swung back and forth between measured calm and violent outbursts, the unease palpable whenever he was present.
This production has been over two years in the making; according to board president Sam Reilly, the cast and crew were just about to enter the show’s tech week in March 2020 when COVID-19 prompted them to regroup. Most of the cast was able to return for Round Two, and the same set (sparsely but innovatively designed by co-director Michael C. Mensching) was also used. This is not an easy show to watch even if one feels fairly comfortable with the subject matter, but the performances and direction are strong across the board, helping the audience to ease into the difficulty and rewarding them with a compelling experience.
“Fun Home” plays at the Ghent Playhouse, 6 Town Hall Place, Ghent, New York, through Sunday, April 10. For information and tickets, go online or call (518) 392-6264. The Ghent Playhouse has COVID-19 protocols in place. https://www.ghentplayhouse.org/
Book & lyrics: Lisa Kron; music: Jeanine Tresori; co-directors: Michael McDermott, Michael C. Mensching; musical direction: Joanne Mensching; cast: Helen Annely, Jeffrey Jene, Amy Fiebke, Rosalyn Annely, Noah Hamm, Siobahn Shea, Connor Eastman, Brayden Huneau, Ely Loskowitz; choreographer: Kelly Sienkiewicz; stage manager: Emily Landona; set design: Michael C. Mensching; lighting design: Bob Healey; sound design: Anne Marie Baker; costume design: Joanne Maurer