To borrow a line of inquiry from the postmodern author John Barth, "For whom is the Fun Home fun?" Not for its unhappy residents, certainly. Not for lovers. Except for those few, golden, giggly moments when everything's perfect.
There are moments of humor in Alison Bechdel's groundbreaking graphic memoir Fun Home, an intimate, wise account of growing up gay in a troubled family. They are fleeting, however, and laced with pathos. Her biographical accounts tested the limits of comic book storytelling, just as the musical incarnation of her novel, currently on stage at Playhouse on the Square, dispenses with every trace of Broadway razzle dazzle, trading instead on fuzzy memory and fresh emotion.
Although it's told from Bechdel's viewpoint, Fun Home revolves around her dad Bruce, an English teacher, a funeral home director, and a deeply repressed gay man whose struggles have left him twisted, full of rage, and, between outbursts, as generous and loving as he knows how to be.
"Speaking as someone who lost a parent recently, I think this show is full of searching to define that parent's influence on you," says regional stage veteran Stephen Huff, who returned to Memphis from his new home in Tampa, Florida, to play Bruce. "What the script and score does so brilliantly is show this fragmented self that's searching for some kind of wholeness in those initial relationships with her parents," he says. "At the end of the show, you finally have the three of the Allisons together singing in unison and harmony. It's this self-integration that's so gorgeous and fulfilling.
"I couldn't pass this up," Huff says answering the opening question. "I saw the [Tony-winning] Broadway production. When Playhouse mentioned that they wanted me for it, I was all-in."