An Illustrated Review of Broadway Musical “Fun Home”

alison bechdel onstage

Three people play Alison Bechdel in the Broadway adaptation of Fun Home, including Beth Malone, above.

Alison Bechdel’s best-selling graphic memoir Fun Home is now a Broadway musical. Not just any Broadway musical, but a hit Broadway musical—it’s been nominated for 12 Tony awards. What better way to review a play about a comic book artist than with a comic? Cartoonist Sara Lautman brings us this illustrated review. 

fun home review

Related Reading: How Are Comics Queer?

Sara Lautman is a cartoonist and an illustrator in Baltimore, Maryland. Follow Sara on Twitter and Instagram

by Sara Lautman
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Sara Lautman is an Illustrator and a cartoonist. Her books are available from Birdcage Bottom Books. www.saralautman.com

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7 Comments Have Been Posted

Sarah Lautman, you rule.

I love this review, I love that this play exists and I love these creative panels. The one with the singer's reflection in the writer's eye is my favorite!

Good job Sarah!

Her father wasn't just a gay

Her father wasn't just a gay guy in the closet. He was a fricking pedophile who preyed on his students. Neither the charcter in the play nor the author of this review dwell or discuss the effects or implications of that specifically. It is mentioned in the play by the mother, but never, ever by the character herself, or at least in no way that made any kind of impression on me - and never in terms of any empathy for the boys. I would think it would be worth some reflection by the character. Who knows what emotional damage was done to these boys (since it happened it real life). The father was in a position of authority over them and he was in his 40's while they were 15 or 16 (one was a jr in highschool - a point was made of him being underage). Also, the brothers disappear halfway through the play.

And yes, the key of rings song was great as with the song about Joan, but to me that didn't make up for the very large and disturbing lack of reflection about her father molesting boys (and it is molestion if they were underage, especially since he was their teacher)

Be careful with the term 'pedophile'

A pedophile is someone who is sexually attracted to prepubescent children. There has never been any suggestion that Alison Bechdel's father was attracted to children. His attractions were to men and (some) post-pubescent, albeit under-age, teens. And although ONE of the characters whom he tries to seduce in the play was identified as a FORMER student, there is no evidence that he was in the habit of 'preying on his students.' The law sets a bright line at the legal age of consent, as indeed it must. But the reality is that human psychosexual development is not a switch that suddenly gets flipped at some arbitrary age of consent. And while it is true that some men prey on underage boys, there is also a phenomenon, long known in the gay community, of younger men, even underage boys sometimes, taking advantage of the emotional vulnerability of older, financially established men. That isn't to say what Ms. Bechdel's father did was right -- it wasn't. But to call him a pedophile is neither fair nor accurate..

I grew up in the same town, and knew this family. Bruce was one of my high school English teachers (and I dare say quite a brilliant one). You presume to know a lot about a situation that was very complex, but you really don't know what you're talking about.

Wow

The lengths people will go to in order to keep from calling men out on their sick shit.

Nobody is avoiding calling out her father's actions

Yes, they were illegal. But NO, he was NOT in a "position of authority" over the underage males he was involved with. The play identifies ONE character as a _former_ student, and from that you conclude that he sexually abused his students while in a position of authority over them. The fact of the matter is he seems to have made a point to steer clear of his students in that regard.

The one thing I really appreciate about the show is that it does not make a monster out of Bruce, because, in fact, he was NOT a monster. He was deeply troubled, to be sure, but he was also a beloved teacher who had a real gift in being able to make everything from Homer and Chaucer to Fitzgerald and Faulkner fascinating and interesting to rural high school kids. Whatever demons he may have been battling, there was still a human being there. And the brilliance of Michael Cerveris' portrayal lies precisely in its insistence on that humanity.

It was a current student. A Junior (I saw the actual play)

I am talking about what happens IN THE PLAY and how the characters present and react. I don't know anything about the man's actual life. The play is VERY explicit that at least the CHARACTER of the father tried to seduce--(successful, it doesn't say) a PRESENT student who IS a Jr. in highschool (which is why he has to go see a psychatrist in liew of being fired!). Holy crap -- if some 40-year old teacher (in position of authority and with the power to FAIL you ) hit on a 15 or 16 year old girl, you'd be singing a diffeent tune (or maybe that is justified for you, as well), I can't speak for what the real-life father does, but in this play -which it seems you didn't actually see - this is what happens. A teacher should absolutely be pillored for that. And PS - a 15 or 16-year old is still a child for christ sakes (and a teen boy body and mind is very different than it will be in his 20's -- it is still very adolscent ) i. It's still sick. Also, you can't actually consent when someone is your teacher (and, sheesh, there is a reason that law and the underage law is in affect.) It's one thing if it's a few years difference, but 25?. Again, I can only talk about how things were presented in the play and how the character reacted in the play. But still, I find your justifying men preying on teens appalling. It may not fit the exact defiination of pedophilla, but what the character did is still sick and wrong and would be damaging. Oh, and if an underage boy "takes advantage" of an older man -- um. isn't the point of being an actual man is that you have the power to say no to a kid wanting to have sex with you? And in the play, the CURRENT highschool student is visablly uncomfortable. My point is -- the play presents her father as attempting to get a Current student DRUNK so that he can have sex with him and the Alison character doesn't even acknowledge it as being troubling ot her or that his actual behavior, not that he is gay, but his attraction to adolscents and messing with their lives, is what maybe contributed to his possible suicide.

I am talking about what

I am talking about what happens IN THE PLAY and how the characters present and react. I don't know anything about the man's actual life. The play is VERY explicit that at least the CHARACTER of the father tried to seduce--(successful, it doesn't say) a PRESENT student who IS a Jr. in highschool (which is why he has to go see a psychatrist in liew of being fired!). Holy crap -- if some 40-year old teacher (in position of authority and with the power to FAIL you ) hit on a 15 or 16 year old girl, you'd be singing a diffeent tune (or maybe that is justified for you, as well), I can't speak for what the real-life father does, but in this play -which it seems you didn't actually see - this is what happens. A teacher should absolutely be pillored for that. And PS - a 15 or 16-year old is still a child for christ sakes (and a teen boy body and mind is very different than it will be in his 20's -- it is still very adolscent ) i. It's still sick. Also, you can't actually consent when someone is your teacher (and, sheesh, there is a reason that law and the underage law is in affect.) It's one thing if it's a few years difference, but 25?. Again, I can only talk about how things were presented in the play and how the character reacted in the play. But still, I find your justifying men preying on teens appalling. It may not fit the exact defiination of pedophilla, but what the character did is still sick and wrong and would be damaging. Oh, and if an underage boy "takes advantage" of an older man -- um. isn't the point of being an actual man is that you have the power to say no to a kid wanting to have sex with you? And in the play, the CURRENT highschool student is visablly uncomfortable. My point is -- the play presents her father as attempting to get a Current student DRUNK so that he can have sex with him and the Alison character doesn't even acknowledge it as being troubling ot her or that his actual behavior, not that he is gay, but his attraction to adolscents and messing with their lives, is what maybe contributed to his possible suicide.

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