When I was offered the chance to get tickets to 42nd Street Moon‘s production of Fun Home playing at San Francisco’s Gateway Theater (April 21-May 8, 2022), I jumped at the chance for a few reasons. First, I’d heard songs from this Tony Award winning musical many times and was already familiar with the premise. Second, the lead of actress of this performance features Rinabeth Apostol, a first generation Asian American of Filipino descent and a LGBTQ activist. Third, with the recent COVID-19 pandemic, opportunities for live theater have been far and few, and indeed this show represents 42nd Street Moon‘s first production since the pandemic began.
The story of Fun Home is based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel of the same name. It covers her life in flashbacks dealing with the suicide death of her gay closeted father and her coming out as a lesbian to her parents. While the lead (Apostol) and the college version of Alison (Teresa Attridge) were played by Asian Americans, the remainder of the cast were not, and in a nod to race blind casting, her older brother Christian was played by African American, Royal Mickens.
Both Apostol and Attridge give stellar performances, and as far as local productions go, this was as well done and put together as any I’ve seen. But it’s Attridge who steals the show in her rendition of Changing My Major, which had the audience roaring with laughter.
The inclusion of Apostol and Attridge in the cast though, made me realize there was a missed opportunity here for the Asian American community. Many of the storylines around being closeted (her dad), difficulty coming out to parents and parents who won’t talk about your LGBTQ status all resonate deeply in the Asian American community. I would love to see a completely Asian American cast doing this and adding some subtle deference and pointers to the unique LGBTQ Asian American experience. Maybe this is something the East West Players can tackle in a future season.
If you get the chance, catch Fun Home at the Gateway Theater on Jackson Street in San Francisco, between now and May 8, 2022.