Chicago Theatre Review
Victory Gardens delivers extraordinary ‘Fun Home’
Fun Home – Victory Gardens
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel is one of the most acclaimed graphic novels in the history of the medium, so it makes sense that the musical – from the songwriting team of Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori, and now staged at Victory Gardens Theater – is among the most moving experiences I’ve ever had seeing a musical on a Chicago stage.
Beautifully realized and stunningly heartfelt, “Fun Home” tells the story of Bechdel’s sexual awakening as a lesbian, and it contrasted with her father’s own anguish as a closeted gay man. Spanning three timelines (Bechdel’s childhood, her freshman year at Oberlin College, and her present-day struggles to translate her memories into graphic novel form), the musical weaves a complex yarn of love, loss, and acceptance, and how Bechdel’s public reckoning coincided with her father’s ultimate destruction.
There are many, many things to love about “Fun Home.” Gary Griffin’s direction is energetic but genuine, always working within the confines of Kron and Tesori’s beautiful songs. As Bruce, Bechdel’s father, Rob Lindley is extraordinary and a near-guaranteed Jeff nominee. Eloquent and loving one moment, raging and unhinged the next, Lindley’s Bruce is a brilliant man imprisoned by his own insecurities, and Lindley brings those emotions out with a striking voice and mannered stage presence. And as the three actresses playing Bechdel, Stella Hoyt, Hannah Starr, and Danni Smith all turn in exquisite work, with Hoyt – a fifth grader at Clark Middle School in St. John, Indiana – turning in the most confident, inspired work I’ve yet seen from a child actor. It takes an extremely confident director to make such material work, and Griffin is to be heaped praise for his efforts.
Ultimately, it’s a wonderful thing that “Fun Home” is playing until Nov. 12, because chances are very high that I’ll be seeing it again. The Chicago theater scene is fortunate to see many wonderful musicals hit its stages, but it’s rare for a musical as completely fulfilling as “Fun Home” to arrive, and theatergoers should seize this opportunity to see a top-notch, exquisitely realized example of what the medium is capable of.
Reviewed by Peter Thomas Ricci
Presented through Nov. 19 by Victory Gardens Theatre, 2433 N. Lincoln
Tickets are available by calling (773) 871-3000 or by visiting www.victorygardens.org.
Additional information about this and other spectacular area productions is available at the one, the only, the indefatigable www.theatreinchicago.com.