Saturday, February 11, 2017

Why isn't FUN HOME sold out every night?

The cast of the touring production of Fun Home, at the Curran Theatre through Feb. 19
Fun Home is running at the Curran in San Francisco for one more week and it’s so good that I am angry that it isn’t sold out every night.

(Except I'm not really angry, because this means that if you haven’t gotten a ticket yet, you still can!)

It’s a cliché to say that Fun Home is a highly specific story about Alison Bechdel that also happens to feel universal—in fact, the Curran’s program, with a cover illustration by Bechdel herself, calls that out. (The cartoon features some people outside the theater, saying “That was exactly like MY family! But totally different…”) But it’s true: it will make you think about your family, and coming of age, and coming to terms with the unique issues that troubled your parents and form an unwanted part of your inheritance.

For me, I thought a lot about the grandfather I never knew, who, like Alison Bechdel’s dad, worked long hours at a funeral home (“fun home”). He was a stern taskmaster, and never got to see as much of the world as he would have liked, and died of a sudden heart attack while my dad was still a teenager. I want that whole side of my family to see this show!

In the show, Alison’s lesbian coming-of-age feels universal too, at least for those of us who were cerebral and physically awkward adolescents who experienced life mostly through books. When Alison learns the pleasures of having a physical body that can make love with another’s body, but can’t describe these new sensations in anything other than academic language (“I’m changing my major to sex with Joan!”) it is adorable and heartfelt and true.

Though only 100 minutes long, Fun Home offers so much to think about regarding families, and sexuality, and gender. Alison can come out of the closet while her father Bruce cannot; partly, this is because she was born after the sexual revolution but also, I think, because it’s more socially acceptable to be a lesbian than to be a gay man. But at the same time as Bruce conceals his sexuality, he clings to his male privilege like the archetypal mid-century patriarch (“He wants, he wants,” his wife and children sing) and polices young Alison’s gender expression.

And, as everyone says, Fun Home is a tearjerker; it had my eyes swimming on a couple of occasions. (I tend to well up rather than full-on sob at the theater, no matter how emotionally moved I am.) I do want to throttle the person whose cell phone went off during “Ring of Keys,” though.

Also, the renovated Curran is pulling out all the stops for their inaugural production. I appreciated the chance to get a free glass of rosé and meet the actors in the lobby after the show (something I’ve never seen happen at a national touring production). But even more than that, I appreciated that the Curran didn’t slap any bullshit “handling fees” or “theater restoration fees” on top of the advertised  price when I purchased my ticket. That's something that is, unfortunately, a rarity these days for big theaters that undergo renovation.

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