The shrewd marketers pushing the Tony Award-winning musical “Fun Home,” now playing at the National Theatre through May 13, insist on calling it “life-affirming.”
That may not be the right word, exactly. Watching forty-something-year-old protagonist Alison Bechdel grapple with painful, long-buried childhood memories to understand through adult eyes what was so difficult to see as a child– her closeted father’s struggle with sexuality, the toll it took on her mother, and his eventual suicide– won’t leave you feeling especially optimistic or hopeful. Knowing that even today there are many who suffer similarly is all the more heartbreaking.
But, true to the graphic memoir on which the play is based (subtitled “A Family Tragicomic), the show weaves tragic outtakes with sweet moments of rose-colored reverie and vibrant comedic breaks, reminding us that life is an emotional roller coaster– with downs and ups at every turn. So while Alison’s mother’s heartfelt solo about her mirage of a marriage will bring you to tears, you’ll also cry laughing at the spectacular musical number where a young Alison and her two brothers advertise the family business (a funeral– or FUN– home) the way only children would think appropriate.
It’s an emotional roller coaster, but absolutely worth the ride.