Every home withholds a multitude of secrets. Under a softly lit, lattice rooftop, The SpeakEasy Stage Company takes an intimate look inside a family seemingly full of zeal and an old Victorian house so tidy and flawless on the outside, flanked with a towering bookshelf, a grand piano, and oriental rugs, it neatly hides the cracks and crevices underneath. With clever scenic design by Cristina Todesco, SpeakEasy Stage unveils this absorbing musical as an interactive treat, every seat a good one, luring the audience into the Bechdel family’s complicated world.
Based on the graphic novel memoir by Alison Bechdel and directed by Paul Daigneault, The SpeakEasy Stage presents the five-time Tony award-winning musical Fun Home through Sunday, November 24 at the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts in Boston, Massachusetts. Click here for more information and tickets.
Looking back on life, it’s funny what you recall. Memories can be tricky. As time goes by, perspective changes as a person grows, transforming a memory, gradually revealing details once never thought of or understood before. That lattice rooftop seals in cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s intimate memories as she writes her memoirs through her work, ruminating on her childhood and upbringing to find out what ultimately makes her feel like she is stuck in life. Alison uses cartoons because drawing as a child, she mused, “I need real things to draw from because I don’t trust memory.”
Told through Alison’s perspective, she looks back on her relationship with her enigmatic, intellectual father Bruce and her traveling and ill at ease mother, Helen. The show is a musical drama with its share of comedic, uplifting moments. Alison is the only individual that outwardly transforms in this piece, thanks to the intense, meticulous work by Marissa Simeqi, adorably and precociously portrayed by Small Alison and Ellie van Amerongen, exceptional as naïve, charming, and nervous Medium Alison.
With black rimmed classes with short dark hair, Amy Jo Jackson slips into Alison’s façade, a mature, jaded and intellectually-driven individual. With a dark sense of humor, Jackson narrates this emotional journey, evoking confusion, warmth, sorrow, and frustration in her fine features, building her strength in each new discovery.
Todd Yard, in a searing performance, masters the many sides of Alison’s father Bruce, who seems to juggle who is or should be to everyone, but cannot openly face his true nature. With black rimmed glasses and dressed in khakis and a blue sweater, he is serious man with a brilliant intellect, aiming to be an expert on most everything. Friendly, strict, and responsible, but as much as he loves his family, secretive and closed off. Each Alison does a brilliant job in portraying their wrought frustration in every moment they attempt to make a genuine connection to him, but especially in the bittersweet song, Telephone Wire. Yard’s vocals have a lovely, emotionally-rich quality reflected in whatever he sings including the poignant number Pony Girl, and most notably his harrowing rendition of Edges of the World – a must see.
Laura Marie Duncan portrays Alison’s complicated and misunderstood mother. Surrounding herself with outward perfection, like her husband, Bruce, she lives her life distancing herself from reality, reflected in the moving number, Days and Days. She personifies a woman with the traditional values of her generation, building security within the walls of her home. Duncan, a beautiful soprano, is behind the house that shines, keeping the flaws out of sight.
Led by and musically directed by Matthew Stern, the small onstage orchestra, spread out in front of the bookcase, features a soothing, fiddle-laden soundtrack that is a combination of light, airy, and melancholy. From its opening song, It All Comes Back to the Flying Away finale, Jeanine Tesori’s captivating musical numbers hold a spectrum of rich, multi-faceted meaning. The catchy, Partridge Family-inspired song, Rainbow of Love is a particular highlight, enhanced by bright colors and retro costumes, but sung in Small Alison’s hope of escaping reality.
Some things cannot be fixed. The painful and difficult moments, and those joyful moments, that might not have been as once imagined. The best thing is to learn from it and take the next step.
SpeakEasy Stage Company’s Fun Home continues through Sunday, November 24 at the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts in Boston, Massachusetts. Click here for more information and tickets. Follow Speakeasy Stage on Facebook for more on their upcoming events.