Plain Jane Theatre production
April 11 to 20
10329 – 83 Ave.
Tickets: Start at $25 and are available at www.varsconatheatre.com
The five-time Tony Award winning musical, Fun Home, the life story about acclaimed cartoonist Alison Bechdel, is touching down at Varscona Theatre.
A production of Edmonton’s acclaimed Plain Jane Theatre, it tells the story of Bechdel, an American lesbian cartoonist who struggles to untangle her complex relationship with her deceased father, a closeted gay man who never came to terms with his sexuality.
This groundbreaking show, the first Broadway musical with a lesbian protagonist, is based on Bechdel’s best-selling graphic novel. In it, she relives her unusual home growing up in a funeral home, her sexual awakening and the many unanswerable questions about her father’s secret life.
As she watches her father’s self-loathing consume him, Alison recognizes her own experiences of discovery and ultimately embraces her identity.
Viewed through Bechdel’s eyes as narrator, the memoir skips through her life in a series of flashbacks. To accommodate the storyline, three Alisons are cast.
Jocelyn Ahlf plays the narrator and grown-up 43-year-old Alison. Bella King is the college-bound Medium Alison while St. Albert’s Jillian Aisenstat is cast as Small Alison.
Jeff Haslam stickhandles the role of Bruce, the father, and former St. Albert Children’s Theatre (SACT) alumna Kate Ryan is Helen, the mother.
Four other St. Albert actors are cast in the show. Karina Cox has landed the role of Joan, Alison’s college lover, and Gabriel Gagnon fills in with four smaller roles.
SACT brothers Carter and Connor Woodley are cast as Alison’s younger brothers, Christian and John, respectively.
“Alison is trying to understand her father’s motivations for committing suicide. She remembers her last drive with Dad and sees a lot of herself in him,” said Gagnon.
“She’s very self-critical and combs through her life trying to piece together a truer version of herself since her dad passed away.”
While Bruce dominates the household with his precise demands, Helen takes on a more passive role aware of her husband’s secret sexual life but unable to do anything. Neither is capable of helping Alison cope with her identity.
It is Joan and exposure to a gay club at college that helps Alison realize her true nature.
“Joan is the perfect contrast – confident and settled in her own skin. Joan has big city smarts, and a lot of exposure to the real world in contrast to Alison’s book smarts. Joan is grounded in who she is. Alison is attracted and gains confidence through her,” Cox said.
This musical is sensitively told and Cox credits Dave Horak for presenting a strong, collaborative vision.
“He’s incredibly thoughtful, but very specific. But he leaves room for you to figure things out. He’s an actor’s director. He’s quirky and this is right up his alley. It’s dark and he understands dark.”
Gagnon adds there’s enough hopeful elements to balance the dark.
“It’s a very powerful show. It has a roller-coaster of emotions. You can connect with the characters and every song will add something special.”