Reviews And Previews
Juliana Shumaker (Small Alison), Scott Esposito (Bruce), Tasha Brandt* (Alison) *Member, Actors’ Equity Association
📷 Every Angle Photography
Fun Home at Cain Park is a must-see tour de force of Cleveland talent
Professional Equity House Theatre
Review by: Neda Spears
Published: August 15, 2023
Sometimes the hype of a show can overshadow the enjoyment of a show, as I think may be the case with FUN HOME. Though it is not a necessarily well-known show outside the theater community, its reputation still holds some weight due to its association with the source inspiration- Alison Bechdel's 2006 graphic memoir of the same name. The aforementioned hype was due to composer Jeanine Tesori & lyricist Lisa Kron being the first female writing team to win the Tony Award for Best Original Score. In the case of the production at Cain Park, the show outmatched the hype.
Director Joanna May Cullinan has assembled a literal pitch perfect cast for this show. Allison, a lesbian graphic artist (performed in an emotionally subtle, moving, heartbreaking track by Tasha Brandt) is the narrator of the story, looking back on her life and trying to reconcile her relationship with her closeted father, Bruce (performed by Scott Esposito, who once again delivers a fractured, flawed and wholly real character). Younger versions of herself are played at different stages: Small Alison, played by Juliana Shumaker, who delivers the song "Ring of Keys" (which relays her emotions at seeing her first butch lesbian) with a maturity beyond her years; and Medium Alison, played Gabi Ilg. Ilg's rendition of "Changing My Major" was a delight and a highlight of the evening, being exceedingly funny as well as vocally challenging and showed this young actress as a strong and vibrant performer who I hope will be seen in many more productions in the near future. Natalie Green as Helen is the suffering, patient mother, and though only has one song ("Days and Days"), never misses a step in her onstage moments in making this character as grounded as possible. Zoe Lewis plays Medium Allison's college girlfriend and fits perfectly into this world and this cast. Her presence in her scenes and her rapport with Ilg is palpable and wonderful. Danny Simpson (listed as Roy/Bobby Jeremy/Others in the program) made each of his iterations as varied and well-rounded as he could; they had to be as they are all essential to the story. Rounding out the cast were Simon Keating and Jaiden Shauf-Dressman, playing Allison's brothers Christian and John, respectively. Their performance of "Come to the Fun Home" with Shumaker had me wanting to give them accolades for a much longer time as their vocals were something to behold.
Caveats also to the orchestra, led by music director Rachel Woods. The music and vocal performances perfectly matched, with one never overshadowing the other (which means there should also be a mention of sound designer Angie Hayes).
There aren't many times that a performance of a show checks all the boxes and leaves an indelible mark that resonates long after the lights dim. This is one of those shows. Do yourself a favor and see it and support theater and these Cleveland actors.