There’s much to celebrate and to regret in the Public’s Fun Home, Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori’s faithful, playful, and tender adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel. Fun Home details Bechdel’s relationship with her father, a part-time mortician. As the adult Alison (Beth Malone) explains, “My dad and I both grew up in the same small Pennsylvania town. And he was gay. And I was gay. And he killed himself. And I became a lesbian cartoonist.” The piece has a fractured chronology, with the adult Alison ceding to Small Alison (Sydney Lucas) and Medium Alison (Alexandra Socha) as she recalls scenes of her childhood and adolescence.
Tesori’s melodies are unaffectedly pretty, Kron’s book and lyrics able, especially in the larksome passages. Director Sam Gold pays his usual meticulous attention to behavior and elicits nicely unforced performances. But Fun Home remains unfocused, never clarifying what sends grown Alison spiraling back into the past. In the opening number, she says, “I can’t find my way through,” yet she never explicates this immobility. And Judy Kuhn’s Helen and Michael Cerveris’s Bruce, as her parents, could each use a song with less recourse to metaphor. A musical set in and around a funeral home should have a better sense of the family plot.