The chatter of an eager audience filled the Loyola’s Newhart Family Theatre Feb. 6, as the stage’s scenery gave life to the room. The set, filled with a mirage of colorblocked panels, left much to be imagined about the story that would unfold.
Adapted by playwright Lisa Kron and musical composer Jeanine Tesori, “Fun Home” is the newest musical to take the stage at Loyola. Directed by Mark Lococo, Loyola’s director of theatre, the story follows the life of lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel. The show spans three different stages of her life — Alison’s childhood, her freshman year at Oberlin College and her present-day struggle to turn her life into a cartoon memoir form.
The story begins in Pennsylvania as 10-year-old Alison struggles to fit her father Bruce’s expectations. While remembering her childhood, Alison makes an attempt to understand her father’s pain and trauma.
Bruce is a high school English teacher, funeral home director and home-renovation enthusiast who has lived his entire life as a closeted gay man. It’s only after 19-year-old Alison comes out to her family that she learns about her father’s true self.
Despite the constant jumping between timelines, the story was clear and easy to follow. With each version of Alison, the audience experienced her journey of self discovery and acceptance while simultaneously witnessing Bruce conceal the same identity that he sees his daughter embrace.
The play’s score enhances the highs and lows that Alison experiences, allowing the audience to truly connect with the emotions that she goes through. The actors immersed themselves into each musical number and delivered emotions that felt genuine and passionate.
Throughout the show, the audience witnesses the complex relationship between Alison and Bruce. It’s most evident in the last scene between the two in which Alison struggles to talk to her father about her newfound identity. Despite wanting nothing more than to discuss her and Bruce’s similar path to self discovery, Alison never gets the closure she desires.
Four months after Alison coming out, Bruce passes due to a suicidal act. This heart-wrenching information leads into the final scene. The three versions of Alison gather center stage, surrounding a cartoon projection of Bruce as they discuss his life and their father-daughter relationship.
“Fun Home” aims to unite the audience with the true-to-life struggles of Alison and creates a surreal sense of seeing life through someone else’s eyes. Throughout the show’s 100-minute duration, the audience witnesses a character battle with their own self acceptance-an issue all too familiar for many.
“Fun Home” will be playing at the Newhart Family Theatre in Mundelein until Feb. 16. Ticket prices range from $6-20 and are available at www.artsevents.luc.edu.