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Monday, February 17, 2020
‘Fun Home’ Sifts Through Relational Mysteries
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Vanessa Sterling stars as Alison and Rusty Ferracane as Bruce in the latest production of The Spot, which was founded five years ago.
 
Wednesday, January 15, 2020
 

BY KAREN BOSSICK

The name “Fun Home” somehow evokes the idea of a fun house at a carnival, complete with mirrors that distort conventional perceptions.

And the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical “Fun Home” does take viewers on a rollercoaster through the wacky and distorted perceptions of a young girl-turned woman trying to figure out the eccentricities and mysteries surrounding her father’s life.

The play, which will run Thursday, Jan. 23-Feb. 1 at The Spot in Ketchum, takes viewers behind the scenes at a funeral home dubbed “Fun Home” where that girl’s father enlisted his children’s help in preparing funeral viewings.

It takes them to the family home in a Victorian mansion in a small Pennsylvania town where Dad was always trying to create perfection with every lamp and every curtain. And it offers the audience a front-row seat to the revelation that Dad was gay and quite possibly might have taken his own life.

“It’s a piece I connect with on a lot of levels,” said Vanessa Sterling, who plays Alison Bechdel, who wrote the comic book-style memoirs on which the play is based. “It’s beautifully crafted—the book is brilliant. It takes a look at family relations. And it was also groundbreaking in that it was the first Broadway play to feature a lesbian protagonist.”

Indeed, the musical adapted by Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron, opened Off-Broadway in 2013, winning three Lucille Lortel Awards--one for Outstanding Musical. It was nominated for two Obie Awards and eight Drama Desk Awards.

It opened on Broadway in 2015 where it won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical and garnered a nomination for the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album.

“It features music by Jeanine Tesori, whom we love—she composed the music for ‘Shrek,’ ” said Director Brett Moellenberg. “It even has a song composed to advertise the family’s macabre business that’s reminiscent of the Jackson Five.”

In some ways, the 95-minute musical is a detective story—a detective story of a young woman trying to figure out who her parents really are and why they do the things they do.

Her father Bruce, is a high school English teacher who comes across tender at times and angry at others. And his actions haunt Alison who has tried so hard to win his approval.

“Bruce, her father is very complex,” said Rusty Ferracane, who has taken on the role. “He has an edge to him that’s volatile and angry. He’s angry one moment and full of vim and vigor and life the next minute. He’s not physically abusive but he can be emotionally abusive to himself and others. In playing him, I have to find a purpose, a source, for that emotion.”

The musical depicts Alison in the act of writing her memoir, which makes it all the more compelling, said Natalie Battistone, The Spot’s creative director.

“It’s like watching memories, like watching her recall her memories of her uniquely dysfunctional family as she puts them on paper,” she said. “But the music is extremely energetic, undercutting the heaviness of the play. We know how it’s going to end from the beginning, but we feel a sense of hope through the music.”

While the play explores gender and sexuality, it’s really more about family relationships, said Ferracane.

“There’s one scene where Bruce and Alison are trying to have a conversation, and they can’t. And it’s heartbreaking.”

The Spot spent months casting the role of Bruce before finding Ferracane, who had played the role before. Not only did it take an actor that reflected Bruce’s age but it required a performer with a very specific, well-honed vocal instrument to sing the part and great depth and understanding to play the part, said Battistone.

Sterling, who played in The Spot’s “American Hero,” was cast as Alison. Sara Gorby, who is no stranger to The Spot, plays the mother Helen Bechdel.

Ida Belle Gorby and Lizzie Loving, both of whom have cut their teeth in St. Thomas Playhouse Company B musicals, play young Alison. Megan Mahoney plays medium Alison.

Kevin Wade takes the role of five guys; Spenser Pfau plays Joan. Eleven-year-old Harrison Black, who recently starred as young Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol” and will play Flat Stanley at the Sun Valley Community School in March, plays brother John. Rylee Brown plays brother Christian.

R.L. Rowsey is directing the music.

IF YOU GO:

What: “Fun Home”

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Sunday, Jan. 23-26; 7;30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, Jan. 26-Feb. 1. Also, 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 1.

Where: The Spot, 220 Lewis St., Ketchum

Tickets: $30 for general audience; $13 for those under 30, available at www.spotsunvalley.com.

The play is suggested for ages 12 and older due to language and sexual themes. There will be complimentary concessions—donations are appreciated.


 

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