BY PETER DORFMAN
Cardinal Stage will wrap up its season with a production of the musical Fun Home, a story of repressed intimacy, disillusionment, and love against steep odds. It is not a play for the whole family but it is a play about family. Fun Home was nominated for 12 Tony awards during its 2015 Broadway run and won five, including Best Musical and Best Original Score.
The play is based on the 2006 graphic novel of the same title by cartoonist and writer Alison Bechdel. It’s the story of Bechdel’s childhood and her relationship with her father, a funeral director and high school teacher who is also a closeted homosexual. Fun Home also chronicles Bechdel’s adolescent realization of her own sexuality. She comes out to her parents at 19, but her father continues to cloak his own sexuality until his death in an apparent suicide.
Bechdel is portrayed by three actresses—at age 10, as a college student, and as adult Alison, who serves as narrator.
The play’s focus is on families and their secrets, coming of age, and awakening to the oddity of one’s upbringing upon seeing it through adult eyes. The character’s sexuality is central to the story, but Fun Home isn’t a “gay play.”
“It’s about a daughter’s relationship with her father, and the emotional journey that she was able to take and he was not,” says Kristin Kimmell, a Bloomington therapist who is a fan both of Cardinal Stage and of Fun Home. “Cardinal’s recent offering, Sex With Strangers, explored relationships as well—heterosexual ones—and I doubt the audience thought of it as a ‘straight play.’”
Kimmell finds the characters true to her experience counseling families. “Many people are unable to live as their authentic selves,” she says. “That’s basically the story of Alison’s father.”
Fun Home will run from June 15 to July 1 at the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center. Tickets are available at Cardinal Stage, the BCT Box Office, or online at cardinalstage.org.