Fun Home Los Angeles Review - The Elephant in the Room

Inspired by Alison Bechdel’s 2006 graphic memoir, FUN HOME was adapted for the stage by Lisa Kron and Jeanine Teson. This is Alison Bechdel’s coming-of-age story, how she was raised by a gay father in a home filled with secrets and how she gradually discovers her own sexuality. In fact, FUN HOME is the first Broadway musical with a lesbian protagonist. The play focuses on three periods in Bechdel’s life - when she was ten, 19, and 43. FUN HOME was first presented off Broadway in 2013, moving to Broadway in 2015. Currently, the national touring company of FUN HOME is playing at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. The production won several Tonys, including Best Musical, in 2015.  The FUN HOME, by the way, is the Bechdel Funeral Home, the family business.

Kate Shindle as Alison Bechdel - Photo by Joan Marcus

Alison’s ten-year-old self, Small Alison (Alessandra Baldacchino) struggles against her very particular father’s expectations while living in a home marked by secrets which may remain just beneath her consciousness. At the same time, she is beginning to sense that she is somehow different from other little girls. Alison’s 19-year-old self, Medium Allison (Abby Corrigan) is a freshman in Oberlin College. She is clearly struggling with her own sexuality and is unsure of her orientation – that is, until she meets Joan (Karen Elbacher). Their first kiss ends her confusion. Alison’s 43-year-old self (Kate Shindle) is a successful cartoonist who knows who she is – and begins to explore the elements in her life which created her. Time lines crisscross as the three Alisons gradually join together in a new understanding.

Alessandra Baldacchino, Pierson Salvador, and Lennon Nate Hammond - Photo by Joan Marcus

But the story of Alison could not be complete without exploring her rapport with her father Bruce (Robert Petkoff), a gay man who has had liaisons with other men (and some boys) while married to her mother, who has chosen to ignore the elephant in the room. Alison’s relationship with her father is rocky and suffers from major breakdowns in communication which persist throughout their moments together. Even though both share some life experiences, they still have problems opening up to each other. Finally, FUN HOME explores the dynamics which may lead to suicide – although whether or not suicide, vs. an accident, actually occurred has remained equivocal.  All in all, this is a heavy family drama filled with conflicts and questions.

Robert Petkoff and Alessandra Baldacchino - Photo by Joan Marcus

But then music enters the tale – and things subtly change. In the gently flowing melodies and spot-on lyrics, some answers may be found. The beauty of music seems to lift this complex story to a different, perhaps more satisfying, level.

Robert Petkoff and Robert Hager - Photo by Joan Marcus

Director Sam Gold helms the production with a sure hand, while musical director Micah Young keep the melodies flowing artlessly. David Zinn’s scenic and costume design, Ben Stanton’s lighting, and Kai Harada’s sound are skillful and pleasing to the audience. The audience should remain aware that this is at its foundation a story about the difficulties faced by homosexuals, their self-exploration and personal discoveries, and all the ramifications that knowledge entails.

Kate Shindle, Abby Corrigan, and Alessandra Baldacchino, the three Alisons - Photo by Joan Marcus

FUN HOME runs through April 1, 2017, with performances at 8 p.m. on Tuesdays through Fridays, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Sundays. A 2 p.m. performance has been added on Thursday, March 30. The Ahmanson Theatre is located at The Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Tickets range from $25 to $125. For information and reservations, call 213-972-7231 or go online

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