Fun Home Goodbyes: Parents and Children and Their Neutral Zones
The Broadway musical Fun Home closed a few days ago after a successful run that resulted in a Tony-win for Best Musical. I wish it had run longer, much longer, because it is such a heartfelt musical without easy answers and simple conclusions. Fun Home came closer that any Broadway musical has ever come to balancing the darkness and the light of growing up in a real family. We are all complicated in our own right, but throw our relationships with our parents into the mix, and many of us can have our neurosis exponentially charged.
Sexuality issues aside, it is important to note that Fun Home illustrated and embodied the complicated relationships between parents and their children, that tentative world where we question how much to trust and negotiate how and what to share. So many of us have grown up with strained parental relationships, always searching for that neutral zone where we can coexist, settling for an emotional ambiguity that weakens the relationship instead of strengthening it. Fun Home painted this so perfectly, never more arresting than in the song "Telephone Wire" where a closeted gay father sits next to his out, gay daughter, riding side by side in a vehicle, but never really connecting or looking in each others' eyes. It was such a chilling moment in the show, one that reached deep into my marrow and stirred things up, unearthing my own parent/son demons from my coming out experience. Fun Home never shied away from raw, bloody honesty and it never apologized for finding the humor in our own human failings. It was, perhaps, the most human a musical has ever been and that is why I wish it would have run for much longer. How many people out there would have benefited from the catharsis incited by its unflinching candor and stark realism? How many human beings need to know they are not alone and would have recognized themselves in these people. I wish every person who has ever felt a disconnect with their parents a chance to sit through Fun Home.
Realistically, shows with these ingredients are not massive crowd pleasers and will never run as endlessly as spectacles or feel good musicals. Catharsis and brutal honesty are hard pills to swallow and not everyone likes to deal in reality anyway. I suppose that Fun Home smacks of too much reality. I, however, will continue to be grateful for my time spent with the denizens of the house on Maple Avenue and bid Fun Home a bittersweet farewell. May it live on regionally and bring its story to those who see themselves in it.