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Manoa Valley Theatre continues it's strong season with a veritable Broadway hit that has- and continues to- touch many. Fun Home, based on the graphic novel by Alison Bechdel and directed by Bree Kale'a Peters, is a fresh and emotional 90-or so minute musical that is very important and relevant to today's audiences. Not everyone may be a lesbian like the show's protagonist, Alison, but the production broaches the sensitive topics of identity, sexuality, consent, love, and family ensuring all that see the show will have something to discuss and talk about.
Told in a non-linear fashion, the biographical musical tale of Alison Bechdel features three versions of her- Alison as she is "now," Small Alison (when she is 9-10 years old), and Medium Alison (when she is 18+, in college). Alison is exploring her life through her memories, drawing and penning a graphic novel of her own. The focal points of her journey involve her discovery and eventual embrace of the fact that she is a lesbian, and her father's journey, which is similar but because of the time, circumstances, and who he is as a person, is a darker mirror of the journey of identity that she embarks on. Around them. the rest of the Bechdel family (and various people in each of their worlds) are affected by their choices to be true to who they are.
The cast is asked to do a lot in this production. To navigate this emotional tumult rife with confusion, secrets, and sincerity while also singing about all of this and more is no easy feat, and they knock it out of the park. Alongside these wonderful performances, Lighting Designer Janine Meyers and Scenic Designer DeAnne Kennedy's work shines, bringing us between the Bechdel's two homes, Alison's college dorm, Alison's art studio, and other locales within the production with deft beauty.
A couple of things occasionally brought me out of this emotional and heartfelt experience while I was watching that I should share. Sometimes, during a few songs an actor will just stay planted on stage and deliver their song to the audience, a la a concert. I felt this was a poor way to use the actors, as they seemed emotionally open when they are moving about and interacting with their fellow cast mates, but as soon as they are tethered to a spot on stage and singing out to the audience in a static position the difficulty of remaining in character and not having the freedom to "play" and "act" becomes clear across the board. The other issue I had with the production was the decision to have certain props and elements of the Bechdels' life present and others being merely pantomimed. I understand there being limitations to acquiring certain props, but usually there is a pattern or a convention with what is present and what is not. There did not seem to be any rhyme or reason to the elements that were pantomimed and the elements that actually were present, and I often found myself curious about the choices made in that area.
In a time where equal representation is finally coming to the mainstream and hard discussions that need to be had are slowly taking place, Fun Home is a very important piece of theatre to all. The questions it asks and messages it rings out are ones that we all as an audience should listen and adhere to, no matter our identity or sexual preference. We should love our families unconditionally, help those that are struggling, be open with those closest to us, and ultimately do the good that is asked of us in the world. It may be difficult, but that is the path that Alison took, and she soared so that we may too.
Fun Home will be playing at Manoa Valley Theatre through March 18. Show times are Wed. 7:30 p.m., Thur. 7:30 p.m., Fri. 8 p.m., Sat. 8 p.m., and Sun. 4 p.m. Tickets are $40. Seniors and military are admitted for $35, youth 25 years old and younger are $22. Minimum age is 13. Call 988-6131 or purchase tickets online at manoavalleytheatre.com. Tickets are also available at all military ticket outlets.