Saturday, December 10, 2016

Can’t make life fit

On Thursday evening I saw the musical Fun Home. The source material is the book of the same name by cartoonist Alison Bechdel. The book is a memoir in comic form, telling of life when she was young. The title comes from the nickname she and her brothers gave to her father's side business, running a funeral home.

The show won the Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Score.

In the musical we see Alison as a 43 year old woman observing the life of Small Alison, age about 9 and Medium Alison, age 19 and a freshman at college. Alison is observing because she says her memory isn’t very good, not something one wants when writing a memoir. A few times during the show Small or Medium Alison writes in a diary and Alison, looking over a shoulder or pulling the diary away once it is set aside, reads it to us. Alison is doing all this because she is trying to understand her father.

The story cuts back and forth between Small Alison and Medium Alison. Medium Alison is coming to terms with being lesbian. She writes a letter to her parents, and doesn’t get the reaction she had hoped. Her mother insists it is a phase, yes, we all experiment, but you can’t be sure. But Medium Alison has her first lesbian moment and sings, “I’m changing my major to Joan.” At her next visit home, Joan in tow, Medium Alison learns her father is gay and how hard that has been for her mother. We’ve been seeing signs of that during the story of Small Alison, though she doesn’t know what it means. We see a bit of what Small Alison will grow up to be when she goes to a diner with her father and while his nose is buried in the newspaper she sees an obvious dyke come in. We also see the father become more unstable as he can’t make his life fit together, both married to a woman with kids, and a gay man.

I quite enjoyed the show. I’ve read part of the book while in the library. I may have to read the whole thing.

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