Story by Stephanie Hall | Contributing Writer
Photos provided by Middle Tennessee State University Theatre Program
Middle Tennessee State University Theatre Department show season comes to end with “Fun Home,” a biographical musical based on the graphic novel of the same name. It ran from April 7-10 at Tucker Theatre.
“Fun Home” is the story of Alison Bechdel (played by Julia Degnan) as she looks back on the memories of her life and her relationship with her father Bruce (played by Payton McCarthy), a closeted gay man. From when she was “Small Allison” (played by Emma Bastin) and didn’t understand everything to “Medium Allison” (played by Llewyn Beaver), who was slowly learning more about herself and her father.
As the lights dim and the overhead announcement tells the audience where the fire exits are, a woman walks down the aisle holding a box. It’s a small detail and you assume she’s just an audience member or maybe works here. The lights went up and we see that it was actually our main character, Allison.
Julia Degnan does an amazing job throughout, especially since she is on stage for the majority of the show. Even when she isn’t the main focus, she stays in character as Allison, drawing the memories as they play out on stage.
From the very beginning, we are told that Allison’s father kills himself 4 months after she comes out to him. It’s a shock, after songs like “It All Comes Back” and “Welcome to Our House on Maple Avenue,” which show him living a fairly happy life, despite him being absent.
Throughout, Payton McCarthy does an excellent job of making the audience both sympathize and despise him. The audience watches as this closeted man seems to struggle with himself one scene and groom young men he used to teach the next. It’s a hard line to walk and McCarthy did amazing.
Of course, as with all the sets this season, there is an incredible amount of detail and innovation done. The set shows three houses (possibly representing the three versions of Allsion), with each house getting closer to the audience and more deconstructed. Hung up are what look to be maps, which are very important in both the graphic novel and the musical.
Memories from both ‘Small’ and ‘Medium’ Allison are weaved throughout the show. Emma Bastin plays small Allison and gives an adorable performance throughout. The song “Come to The Fun Home” with Chris Cooper as John and Isaac Sisunik as Christian was a morbidly fun song. The three sang and danced about coming to the Bechdel funeral home for all their death needs, which got a lot of laughs from the audience.
Llewyn Beaver played ‘Medium Allison’ and did extremely well showing Allison’s journey in college of coming to terms with her sexuality. The audience cheered as they stood on the bed and declared “I’m a lesbian” and laughed along during the song “Changing my Major.” Beaver, along with Stokeley Ellison as Joan (Allison’s girlfriend), gave a very relatable performance that the audience enjoyed.
During “Edges of the World,” the lighting team did a great job of highlighting McCarthy’s voice throughout. During his moments where he is complaining about the problems of the house, the stage is black except for a smoky blue spotlight. “But when the sunlight hits the parlor wall at certain times of day,” the stage is lit up with golden light, showing off the beautiful set in a light we hadn’t seen before.
“Fun Home” was an amazing show to end the season that many students could relate to. It was, as the name suggests, a very fun show.
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