“Fun Home” at SLAC Makes Life Bearable


dav.d daniels of dav.d photography.

Hailee Olenberger, Topher Rasmussen, Mary-Helen Pitman in “Fun Home” Photo Courtesy of: dav.d daniels of dav.d photography.

By Palak Jayswal, Arts Editor

Salt Lake Acting Company’s production of “Fun Home” is riveting. The allure of the five-time Tony award-winning play is hard to ignore, but it’s the actors at SLAC that do the production justice. The production was preceded with a round of toasts from a group of three woman whose names I don’t know, but believe me when I say they were both genuine and hilarious. One of them remarked, “SLAC makes living in Utah bearable.” The rambunctious laughter from the audience that followed was nothing compared to how true that statement was after watching the production.

As noted in the preview for “Fun Home” the play follows the life of Alison Bechdel in three different stages: childhood, college, and late adulthood, but this play is more than a coming of age story. It’s a play about family, how you appear to others and how life is almost never easy, but art can help you get through it. Alison is intrigued by art from a young age, whether that’s through drawing or the books her father made her read. Throughout the production, 43-year-old Alison is looking back at her life and trying to make sense of it through the only medium she knows: cartoon drawing.

Reminiscent of “Boy Meets World,” the actors and actresses of SLAC do a phenomenal job at portraying Bechdel and her life. Some of them are fairly young, but are incredibly talented, like Natalia Bingham who played young Alison and whose vocals left the small seating and stage area at SLAC quaking in reverence. Ashley Wilkinson, who plays Alison’s mother, has a stunning solo that left several members of the audience with jaws open and eyes wide. The cast as a whole was extremely coordinated and quick on cues. Every member has astounding vocals and carried the audience through the scenes as if they themselves were floating alongside Alison.

The set design was exquisite. I had a chance to get a closer look at some of the props, namely the book that Alison doodles on throughout the production and it was so detailed and well done. Set designer Dennis Hassan did a fantastic job of bringing significance to the set up of the Bechdel home. There were no mishaps in changing sets and through-scenes which is important for flow. With so many of those happening, it didn’t feel as if the audience was struggling to keep up with the story at all. The transitions between different scenes were very smooth.

Hailee Olenberger who plays college Alison was perhaps the most remarkable actress of all. She was exuberant and she hit every line in a way that sunk straight into the audience’s hearts. It helps that the script is so real, fresh and utterly hilarious — the cast was really able to bring it to life. Ultimately, the climax of the production is what stuck with me the most. The lighting and sound of this scene in particular was fantastic.

Perhaps the only downfall of the production was that there were a few times where some of the vocals were too soft or covered by the musicians or sound cues that hadn’t been faded out properly.

As we learned from the toast at the beginning of the night, art — including SLAC and “Fun Home” — is what makes life bearable. Alison Bechdel does exactly that through her story of being a creator and coming out. The SLAC cast and crew on this production did a phenomenal job, and I urge you not to miss out on seeing such a fantastically crafted show.

You can see “Fun Home” at SLAC from April 4-May 13th. Tickets available here.