On November 7th, I had the opportunity to get out of quiet and mundane Hamilton to see Fun Home, which was based on Allison Bechdel’s graphic novel memoir, on Broadway. Getting out of Hamilton felt amazing. Not to mention, later that day, I was able to eat real soul food, which warms my heart. I was so relieved to be off campus, I almost took the R train back to my house. Yet, I realize that if I disappeared, you, my endearing fan base, would be exceptionally sad. Also I came to the conclusion I’ve worked too hard to not get this piece of paper this institution claims is a credible degree. So here I am, entertaining you with my thoughts of Fun Home.
Overall, Fun Home was a great musical that had a compelling cast. The play follows Allison Bechdel, who tries to make sense of her life, sexuality, and relationship to her father by reflecting on the events she experienced as a young girl. During her college years, Allison becomes comfortable with her sexuality and her work as a comic artist. She falls in love with a confident lesbian named Joan, who helps her to become comfortable with the fact that she is a lesbian. Even with her newfound confidence, Allison still seeks approval from her father. This is evident when Allison waits for her father’s response to her coming out letter only to be met with disappointment when her dad says he is glad she is “experimenting.” It is clear that often there is a disconnect between her and her father, yet there are certain moments where they seem one in the same. Allison wholeheartedly tries to build their relationship and make her father happy. A scene that stuck with me is when younger Allison was drawing a picture and her father told her it needed more structure. After her father has an outburst, Allison pleads with him. Even though she didn’t agree she did what he wanted anyway, saying, “Daddy, I’m sorry, I want to do it your way, I like the way you did it.”
Allison’s father, who is exceptionally hard to please and is manipulative, is troubled and conflicted throughout the play. There are times when he seems to love his family, and then, minutes later, he is revolted by everyone and everything. Allison’s mom and her siblings are often just backdrop in the play; once in awhile, they will speak and sing, but that’s it. There isn’t much character development going on for anyone who isn’t Allison or her dad.
As the play progresses, my disdain for Allison’s father grows, with almost every single scene. This was disheartening because when the play started I really wanted to like him. He is inconsiderate, abusive and projects his feelings onto Allison. This is evident when he tries to force Allison into gender binaries by explaining if she doesn’t fit them people will gossip about her. Allison points out that this is ironic, since he is not your typical “rugged” portrayal of a man.
The audience also witnesses Allison’s father flirting with underage and younger men, whom he employs to work in his house and whom he teaches. Allison’s mother even tells Allison that he has gotten in legal trouble because he served alcohol to a group of young men to coerce them to have sex with him. After hearing this, Allison believes that now her and her father are connected through their homosexuality. However, I find this lens she uses to view her father troubling. Bruce Bechdel targets young men and provides them with alcohol, so there is the question: is he gay or is he a pedophile? Those two things are not synonymous. I wonder if Allison ever grappled with the idea of her father being a pedophile and just did not mention it in the play because of the way he dies. (Oh, yeah, he dies in the play, but I won’t tell you how so you can remain surprised.)
All in all, I really enjoyed it and would give it like 4.5 stars out of 5, which might not mean much because I’m a twenty-year-old college student and not a theatre critic. However, I figure if you didn’t value my opinion you wouldn’t read my awesome blog posts!!!
Although I did not cry, one of my best friends who prides themselves on avoiding sad human emotions did cry. So you should probably carry some Kleenex just in case.
- Ashleandra Opoku '17, Multicultural and LGBTQ Affairs Intern