Entertainment

Chance Theater in Anaheim opens a door to an intimate ‘Fun Home’

A stranger lived in Alison Bechdel’s home. He happened to be her father.

Her attempt to piece together her deceased dad’s many mysteries is the subject of a 2006 memoir, “Fun Home,” and the Tony-winning musical made from it.

The nuances of this story are best appreciated up-close in a place like the 98-seat Chance Theater in Anaheim, which is applying its more-with-less finesse to the material after a national tour’s 2017 swing through huge halls. Achingly real, the production triggers tears, even if singing voices, now and again, aren’t all that one might wish.

An inventive set design wraps theatergoers within the walls of a restored architectural gem in small-town Pennsylvania where three children engage in merry antics while their parents struggle to suppress a marital drama.

Skipping among time periods, the story — adapted by Lisa Kron, with music by Jeanine Tesori — is narrated by 43-year-old Alison, who records her memories in illustrations that, we sense, will become the bestselling graphic-novel-style memoir “Fun Home.” It is, at heart, a tale of missed connections.

Gifted with a pure, powerful voice, Holly Reichert portrays childhood Alison with a mix of unruffled innocence and precocious awareness of who she’ll grow up to be. Madelyn Velazquez-Heywood, as college-age Alison, beautifully captures the lightning-in-a-bottle feeling of first love, slipping out of bed to marvel at the girlfriend still asleep there. As adult Alison, Ashlee Espinosa poignantly captures the regrets of a daughter who realizes, too late, how alike she and her father (Ron Hastings) were — and how different the story might have been if he could have lived as openly as she does.

Madelyn Velazquez-Heywood, right, as college-age Alison and Ketino Christopher as her first love.

(Doug Catiller)

Director Marya Mazor expertly builds the family’s mini-dramas toward their powerful resolution while artfully deploying the cast of nine (which includes two more incredible youngsters: Reese Hewitt and Christopher Patow) around Bradley Kaye’s spare yet encompassing set. The audience is seated in two sections that face each other, much like the Broadway in-the-round staging, which enhances the you-are-there feeling. From a screened-off alcove, Lex Leigh, at his synthesizer, leads a band of four.

The story doesn’t shy from skin-crawling moments when dad tries to seduce townsmen who are still in or barely out of high school. His desires have warped inside his closeted existence, a condition he tries to conceal behind his meticulously restored home and picture-perfect brood. “We’re a typical family quintet,” goes one lyric, “and yet …”

“Fun Home,” Chance Theater

The Bechdel kids, played by Holly Reichert, Reese Hewitt, center, and Christopher Patow, play around in the family funeral home.

(Doug Catiller)

‘Fun Home’

Where: Chance Theater, 5522 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays; ends March 1
Tickets: $25-$49
Info: (888) 455, 4212, ChanceTheater.com
Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes (no intermission)

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