By DON FOWLER
Based on graphic artist Alison Bechdel’s best-selling memoir, “Fun Home” has had success on Broadway and with the road version seen recently at PPAC.
The Wilbury Theatre Group, under the astute direction of Artistic Director Josh Short, has taken the play, cast it with incredible actors, and set it up close and personal, where unlike the proscenium setting the audience feels closely connected to the characters.
“Fun Home,” like many good “family dramas,” shows the joys and sorrows of the members of one family in a moving, poignant story that makes you feel for and connect with its members. The “fun home” is actually a funeral home, where the Bechdel children were raised. The setting calls for a very funny song about how life can be fun in that “fun home.”
The story is told through the memories of Alison (Rachael Warren) as she relives her earlier life, focusing on her relationship with her obsessive-compulsive father at age 10 and during her first year in college.
Warren told me that she had wanted to do the play since the first time she saw it on Broadway. A lull in her schedule at Trinity allowed her to do it, which is fortunate for us.
While Warren is the only equity actor in the production, the other actors rise to the challenge, making for a closely-knit ensemble that shines from beginning to end in the one-act play that never loses its intensity.
Most impressive was Jason Loete as Alison’s domineering, bisexual father. Loete, a Boston actor now living in Edgewood, appeared in a number of productions at the former Ocean State Theatre in Warwick and at Theatre-by-the-Sea. Hopefully, we’ll be seeing more of him in Rhode Island theatres.
Paige Barlow plays “Small Alison.” This young lady has tremendous talent both as an actress and singer, as does Shannon Hartman, who plays “Medium Alison.” Hartman lights up the stage as she portrays Alison at a time when she comes out as a lesbian, a sensitive role that she handles with such conviction.
All of the cast members have excellent voices, including RIC graduate Jennifer Mischley, who plays Alison’s mother. The band is first class, under the direction of Tom Chace, and the production is nearly operatic, as the songs are an integral part of the moving story.
“Fun Home” plays at Wilbury Theatre through June 16. Word of mouth should make this production a tough ticket, so call 400-7100 today for reservations or go to www.thewilburygroup.org.
Wilbury Theatre has given us some good productions in the past, but “Fun Home” takes them from the minors to the majors in the Rhode Island theatre scene.