There are two people in most of our lives who we know the most and at the same time we know the least.  Those people are our parents who, again in most cases, strive to obtain the ultimately unattainable goal of having the quintessentially ‘perfect family’.

FUN HOME is a memory play, or, more accurately a memory musical.  Those memories belong to Alison Bechdel (Kristen Howe), a forty-something cartoonist.  She acts as the narrator and guides us through meaningful moments of her past.  We see her childhood self (Keeley Karsten) along with her brothers Christian (Griffen Campbell) and John (Colton “CJ” Wealand )and her young adult self (Cecily Dowd) as they navigate through these various time bending memories. What was presented to the outside world was an idyllic family but in reality was anything but that.  Her father, Bruce Bechdel (Victor Wallace) was a college professor who also ran the family funeral home and with the remainder of his time was attempting to restore a rather run-down home back to its former glory.  He was also a closeted gay man who would grab encounters with younger men (all played by Blake Kevin Dwyer) but strictly on the DL.  His obsessive behaviors towards the house and his family were clearly a sign of a tortured soul caught between his real self and the projected image of the perfect family man.

While in college, Alison herself accepts that she is a lesbian when she meets and falls in love with Joan (Charlotte Wallace).  Her mother, Helen (Leslie Tinnaro), tries to keep things in balance even while her own stresses mount to a breaking point. Alison has her own demons to wrestle with especially the guilt she carried that there was something she could have done or said to prevent her father’s suicide.

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The score by Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron manages to convey the joyful moments, like the pastiche number “Come to the Fun Home”, as well as the intense inner anguish of Helen in her powerful eleven o’clock number “Days.”  The book by Lisa Kron, based on the graphic novel by the real Alison Bechdel, manages to maneuver in and out of time without any confusion and never allows itself to slip into melodrama.  

The set by Jimmy Cuomo easily conveys the various settings of the musical through well-chosen suggestive elements all supported by Moira Wilkie Whitaker’s mood inducing and fluid lighting design.

Under the excellent direction of Adam Karsten, the play is in constant motion with scene changes taking on an almost cinematic feel.  His cast delivers uniformly strong, powerful performances.  One standout moment for me is when Leslie Tinnaro as Alison’s mother Helen, finally erupts in a volcanic moment, unleashing the pent up anger and sadness she has been trying to mask for all her years of marriage.  It is truly a tour de force performance.

FUN HOME, which won 5 Tony Awards, is playing through December 18, 2022 at CVRep’s theatre (the former IMAX theatre in Cathedral City).  For tickets or further information, visit their website at CVRep.org.