What strange and wonderful things are happening to the musical — or maybe it was always a little different. In Fun Home, which is playing in an excellent production at Center Stage through April 14, the playwright Lisa Kron and her accomplices, the composer Jeanine Tesori and the graphic-novel author Alison Bechdel, have taken the standard structure of the musical apart and rewired it to spark and fizz with dark humor and difficult emotions. Under the direction of Samantha Eve, this cast does justice to one of the most challenging and innovative plays of the decade.
As Bruce Bechdel, the hypervigilant, emotionally unavailable gay dad, Rob Grayson delivers an outstanding performance. He sings well, he creates a multidimensional physical portrait, and he never shies away from the character’s harsher moments. The difficult task of keeping the three Alisons together at the center of the story was handled with supreme effectiveness by the trio of Aileen Marie Scott (Alison at 43), Paige Mobley (Medium Alison), and, on the night I saw the show, Ember Reiter (Small Alison). Some of the evening’s best moments came from Sam Pillow and Henry Challen, the young actors who play Small Alison’s brothers Christian and John, and as Helen Bechdel, Deborah Bertling was a marvel of seething forbearance.
Great songs such as “He Wants,” “Telephone Wire,” and “Ring of Keys” make Fun Home a sure thing to gain fans and repeat productions as more people see, hear, and appreciate what this unusual show has to offer.