'Fun Home' A Show Without Secrets

Father Knows Best. Oh, Yeah. At Zoetic Stage

Roger Martin, ATCA

Zoetic Stage is presenting the 2015 five time Tony Award musical “Fun Home” at the Arsht Center and it's a show without secrets, the plot laid bare pretty much at curtain rise. Married father of a daughter and two sons is a closet gay who senses his young daughter will also be gay. Daughter indeed grows up to be a lesbian and tells of her father's anguish, exposure, and death.

LEFT: Playing in the coffin.
RIGHT: Anna Lise Jensen.<br>Photos: Justin Namon.


LEFT: Playing in the coffin.
RIGHT: Anna Lise Jensen.
Photos: Justin Namon.

Simple? Not really. It's a true story. Alison Bechdel is the daughter. She wrote a graphic novel (or comic book, if you like an argument) about her life with father. From this Lisa Kron, book and lyrics, and Jeanie Tesori, music, wrote “Fun Home.”

The musical runs all over time, jumping back and forth by dint of Alison being played by three actors, each of a different age.

Nicholas Richberg plays Bruce, the obsessed, raging father, loving his family but unable and unwilling to curb his love of men. He's inherited a mortuary, teaches high school English, restores old houses and can't sleep. Richberg's depth of character is astounding, each smile, each glance, each lip curl a deep peek into Bruce's pain.

Jeni Hacker is Bruce's wife, Helen, knowing since early in their marriage that she's a victim, but deciding to stay, to seek normality. There's no hope and Hacker portrays this beautifully.

LEFT: Jeni Hacker and Kimmie Johnson.
RIGHT: Hannah Benitez and Kimmie Johnson.<br>Photos: Justin Namon.


LEFT: Jeni Hacker and Kimmie Johnson.
RIGHT: Hannah Benitez and Kimmie Johnson.
Photos: Justin Namon.

The sweet part of “Fun Home” is the Small Alison, 10, and the Medium Alison, 19, played by Alexa Lasanta and Kimmie Johnson. There's surprising tenderness in their slow acceptance of the future and the discovery that Bruce is gay.

Anna Lise Jensen is the grown up Alison and it is she who recalls the scenes as Small Alison... I don't want to wear a dress to the party, and the Medium Alison... I'm changing my major to Joan. Scenes too, of the children dancing in a coffin and small Alison watching her father sneak out in the middle of the night, trolling.

Joan, Medium Alison's first love at college is played by the exuberant Hannah Benitez and Jonah Robinson is the several, one time underage, targets of Bruce.

Bruce's two young sons, Christian and John, are played by Note Poses and Brayden Labgold-Carroll.

This is a musical, remember, and there are thirteen songs strewn throughout the show. Everyone gets a piece and here too, Richberg and Hacker stand out, Hacker especially with her song "Days and Days." But be aware, this isn't a forties show tune fest. If you can't tell an A flat from a slap on the ear you won't be whistling on the way home.

Well directed by Stuart Meltzer, there's plenty of humor amongst the angst. This is a typically good Zoetic production, probably a little less shocking today than when it opened on Broadway. 

LEFT: Benetiz and Johnson.<br>
RIGHT: Jonah Robinson and Nicholas Richberg.<br>Photos: Justin Namon.


LEFT: Benetiz and Johnson.
RIGHT: Jonah Robinson and Nicholas Richberg.
Photos: Justin Namon.

Eric Alsford is the musical director and plays keyboards and leads Roy Fantel, percussion, Martha Spangler, bass, Gary Gottfried, reeds, Elena Alamilla, cello, Sandy Pollarack, guitars, and Luba Ohrimenko, violin. All excellent and a shame they couldn't be seen, but that would have drawn focus. Oh,well.

Set design by Michael McClain featuring The Bechdel's family home, their family owned funeral home and Oberlin College. Animations on the upstage screen by Greg Duffy and Michael McKeever. Lighting by Rebecca Montero, costumes by Angelina Esposito, choreography by Jeni Hacker and sound by Ross LaBrie. Run time is: One hour forty minutes, no intermission.

“Fun Home” runs through May 13 at the Carnival Studio Theater at the Arsht Center, 1300 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami. 305-949-6722

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