I saw Fun Home, the musical, last week. In the words of Medium Alison, “Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod!” Yes, my God, it was soooo good! It’s based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel of the same title. The graphic novel is Alison Bechdel’s (of the Bechdel Test, yes!) autobiography and her way of trying to understand her closeted gay father who killed himself shortly after she came out as a lesbian.
The musical was beautifully poignant with each character resonating with every member of the audience, straight or otherwise. This is what makes this musical special, I would say. Although the central issue is homosexuality, it is not limited to that and the whole time you’re watching it, you eventually forget the homosexuality part. You realize that gay or not, you are exactly like one, if not all, of the characters. But, of course, for a clseted gay woman like me, the musical was extra meaningful.
I couldn’t relate to Small Alison wanting to dress and look like a boy because, cisfemale that I am, I’ve never been like that. But, in “Ring of Keys”, when she saw that butch lesbian and felt so intrigued, I could see myself in her when I first met and encountered women like me. That moment is always priceless to every person who always thought she was different. When you realize that there are others like you and you realize there is nothing wrong with you, it can be overwhelming. I was crying the whole time the little girl was happily singing her innocent realization and her recognition of her own self in the older woman. I was too familiar with that feeling.
When it came to Medium Alison’s sexual awakening and realization, I felt that storyline was my own. As she was awkwardly talking to Joan and denying her sexual preference, even claiming to be asexual, I was laughing to myself because I was that person. I didn’t even want to acknowledge my feelings. I didn’t want to talk about how I felt for girls and didn’t feel for boys. “Just because I don’t like boys doesn’t mean I’m into girls,” Medium Alison declared. And, oh, how many times have I said that? I’ve lost count. Until, finally, we have that “Changing My Major” moment! There’s this one person who comes into your life, your own personal Joan, and just changes everything you knew or thought you knew, turns your world upside down and you don’t even have any idea what hit you! When you finally get together, you realize this was everything you were missing and, all of a sudden, everything makes sense. You understand yourself and it feels like you’re seeing the world for the first time.
The father-daughter relationship in the story is something I could relate to, not because my father was in any way gay, but because I was very close to him. My father was my anchor. He was never the showy, expressive type of father and he was always so strict, but I knew he always understood me. He didn’t have to show it, I could feel it. I could relate to how Alison wanted to reach out and connect with her father and tell him things she was never able to. And, because they were both gay, she wanted to tell him that it was okay. She never had the chance and that just broke me to pieces. “Telephone Wire” was heartbreaking.
What Bruce, Alsion’s father, had to go through was so difficult. He was gay, but he got married to Helen because that was what was expected of him. He limited his existence within their town of Allegheny, Pennsylvania. He lived his whole life within a little circle you could draw on a map. Just a dot on the map. He didn’t have the courage to get out of the place in the same way that he didn’t have the courage to come out of the closet even if everybody in the town already knew what kind of man he was. As a result of all this, he became bitter and angry. And, abusive. Seeing that, you can’t help but feel very sorry for him. His character resonates with me so much because I know that I could so easily be like him. I was married, too, at one time and I would have lived the same miserable life he lived had I stayed in that marriage. I’d have become bitter and angry, too. What scares me now is that can still happen to me. I’m not out yet, after all. But, will I subject myself deliberately to such misery ever again? I may not be out, but I do not think I could ever live that way. I am already suffering as it is, I can’t add more to it. I’ve lived with a lie long enough to know that I am not willing to spend the rest of my life a prisoner of such lie. That was the life Bruce chose for himself. It wasn’t his fault really but his story is a lesson to everyone like him.
His wife, Helen, on the other hand, was also a victim of circumstances she never asked to be in. I cannot imagine how difficult that must have been. Suffering silently and alone. She didn’t even know what she was getting herself into. Sadly, she couldn’t just take off because she felt that as a married woman, she had to stick by her man no matter what. She didn’t really owe that to anyone, but that was how she was raised. So, no matter how miserable she was in her marriage, she chose to stay. She recounted how she suffered through her married life “Days and Days” and how the little routines of her her daily living helped her deal with everything. Lea Salonga’s silent yet powerful portrayal of Helen haunted me in my sleep even days after I saw the play.
Fun Home (Manila) was epic! The actors and actresses as well as everyone else who was a part of the team that brought this little musical with so much heart need to be patted on the back for such a great show! We need more of this, especially in this country. Kudos to everyone! ‘Til next time! ❤