Shakespeare once wrote, “to thine own self be true.” LBGTQ+ or straight, it’s all very simple and, yet, so complicated when we are not open to being true to ourselves. “Fun Home,” the musical now showing at Good Luck Macbeth, invites us to take a serious look at how we accept who we are and how communication and self-truth are the only security we really need. This play, which is the debut directorship for Jesse Mae Briggs, makes the call to listen, accept, and love.
The shabby set will prompt some imagination as middle-aged cartoonist Alison Bechdel (Malary Engstrom) tries to unlock the pieces of her life that triggered each significant milestone, especially those influenced by the opacity of her parents Bruce (Ryan Kelly) and Helen (Stacy Russell). Alison and her family, including brothers Christian (Bryce Hurley) and John (Max Bailie), live in a restored Victorian home that is attached to the family mortuary (the Fun Home) where, on the surface, everything is in its place.
Imani Valle soars as young Alison and, together with Hurley and Bailie, brings infectious childhood energy to every scene. However, their voices were nearly overshadowed by the percussionist’ (Brandon Dodge) over-exuberant rhythm and tendency to solo when blending was more appropriate. The rest of the band played beautifully. The children bring the perfect harmony of lightness to Engstrom’s serious self-reflection.
Kelly’s booming voice and stage presence encapsulate the character with his frustration, self-deception, parental love, and the ability to ignore everyone else including his own truth. Russell plays Alison’s mother elegantly until we see her true depth as she reveals her own misery and the melting of her luster—broken dreams tarnished by the “days and days” of duty of her generation. Young adult Alison (Natalie Gonzalez), in her college self-discovery and first love, convinces us all that “changing our major” to Joan (Amelia Giles) is the best possible option. Gonzalez and Giles’ chemistry is just so right.
While the set may require creativity from the audience, Katelyn Caufield’s costumes were well selected to each era, especially those worn by older Russell. JoAnna Wagner’s choreography was fun-filled for the larger scenes and the cast performed their numbers with ease. It is clear that Briggs, with her Assistant (Timothy Mahoney) and Musical Directors (Kris Engstrom), understood the depth and balance needed for this type of musical. It is obvious that a respectful delicateness was applied to this relevant performance. Engstrom was perfection, granting us the pleasure of listening to him parse Alison’s truth for an hour and a half.
This transformative musical has a message for anyone who has been a child or parented/mentored a child. I went home and hugged my children a little tighter with a promise to remind them often that I accept their whole person, share my own experiences without self-judgment, talk about what really matters, and listen. Truth isn’t redundantly used in this play; it is the foundation of how we shape our identity. Because, deep down, all we really want is to be loved and accepted for our own uniqueness.
This is a talented cast that will keep you engrossed even without an intermission. You will laugh with joy and may even be triggered to tears. Fun Home is, hands down, the best community theater performance I’ve ever attended. This show needs to be sold out every night and run forever (or at least extra performances)!
Lisa Genasci, Art Spot Reno theater critic
If you go:
What: “Fun Home”
Where: Good Luck Macbeth Theatre, 124 W. Taylor St.
When: through July 27
Tickets: Make reservations online at goodluckmacbeth.org, call 775-322-3716, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org