I can’t remember the last time a musical moved or impressed me so fully on so many levels. “Fun Home,” now at The Ahmanson Theatre, is that musical. This is one remarkable piece of theatre. It’s rightfully been called “groundbreaking.”

Based on Alison Bechdel’s 2006 autobiographical cartoon (aka graphic) memoir of the same name, which is subtitled “A Family Tragicomic,” you might think that the story of a closeted gay father who runs a family funeral home and later commits suicide as his daughter is coming of age and coming to terms with being lesbian, sounds pretty heavy. And yeah, the true story line may be that, but this play isn’t.  Ultimately both book and stage production are life affirming.

Alison is seen in three stages of her life, as a young girl, a college student and an adult and we follow her progression through the complexities of life with father. Bruce (Robert Petkoff) is a control freak and perfectionist with an eye for aesthetics and young boys, and while at times he seems to love his family, he is too conflicted to make their lives anything but dysfunctional and difficult.

Small Alison (Alessandra Baldacchino) is a spirited, tomboyish child questioning why she needs to behave and dress in certain ways; Medium Alison (Abby Corrigan) is a tentative but probing college freshman who is learning to love; and grown up Alison (Kate Schindle) is the wise adult, seeking to reconstruct the parts of her life that will help her understand why her father threw himself into the path of an oncoming truck. Mother Helen (Susan Moniz) is a sympathetic character whose solo “Days and Days” is truly poignant, about the opportunities she gave up to give her life to her family and what she didn’t get in return.

How these characters are interwoven into a dramatic arc is masterful.  Alison looks back through time with memories acted out on stage and via letters, phone calls and diary entries and, of course, music and dancing. She recalls how demanding her father was but still remembers fun times, like hiding in caskets with her siblings, and playing airplane with her father, which will come full circle as she recalls his tragic death at play’s end.

This play deserves the three Tony Awards (including Best Musical), the Obie and the Lucille Lortel Awards that it received and we, in Los Angeles, are fortunate to have it here. The opening night standing ovation was more than deserved, and I joined the cheering throng. I’m sure it’s getting them every night of this run.

“Fun Home” is at the Ahmanson Theatre through April 1; For tickets and information, visit http://CenterTheatreGroup.org or call (213) 972-4400. Do. Not. Miss. This.

 

IRANIAN NEW YEAR

Now that the Iranian film “The Salesman” has won the Best Foreign Film Academy Award, it’s time to celebrate. The Iranian cultural organization, Farhang Foundation presents the 9th annual Iranian New Year Festival of Nowruz. Previously held at Los Angeles County Museum of Art where an estimated 20,000 people attended, the popularity of the event required a larger venue. This year, it will take place on Sunday, March 12 from noon to 5 p.m. on the UCLA campus. It’s free and open to the public.

Los Angeles has the largest concentration of Iranians outside of Iran and a section of Westwood Boulevard featuring numerous Iranian retail businesses is even referred to as “Tehrangeles.”

Part of a tradition dating back at least 3,000 years in Iran and surrounding regions, Nowruz translates to “new day”. It marks the vernal equinox and symbolic rebirth of nature. The holiday is observed by nearly 100 million around the world, including the U.S. and in places as far-flung as Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, India and Turkey.

Outdoor activities will take place in Dickson Court North and South, adjacent to each other and to Royce Hall. With the exception of a 5 p.m. ticketed event at Royce with Iranian singer Mohsen Namjoo — called the Bob Dylan of Iran — all events are free.

Featured activities include a costume parade, performances by the Djanbazian Dance Company, Daneshvar Children’s Ensemble, DJ Arin, a Grand Haft Sin Display—an exhibit that presents an eye-catching table laden with items used as symbols of spring and renewal, such as colorfully painted eggs, representing fertility, and goldfish swimming in a bowl, representing life. Enjoy an Iranian Teahouse while watching performers in costume, dancers and musicians playing traditional instruments, strolling stilt walkers, as well as a dedicated area for children, with music, arts and crafts and a special puppet show.

Find out more here: http://tinyurl.com/zer7fjj

 

GIVE KIDS A BREAK

Wondering what to do with the kids during Spring Break? Send them to Spring Break Theatre Camp at Santa Monica Playhouse. They’ll create and perform a play in five days, following in the footsteps of such renowned alumni as Zooey Beschanel, Kate Hudson, Jason Ritter and Jason Segel, among many other distinguished camp grads.

It’s a one-week adventure in creative thinking where they’ll experience all aspects of stage production: script, music, movement, improvisation and performance, all the while making friends, learning to express themselves and working with professional theatre artists.  Students create and present a unique original mini-musical of their own, complete with costumes, make-up, lighting, sound, props and set design.

Enrollment is now open for the two one-week sessions, Session I: April 3 to 7, and Session II: April 10 to 14.  Class meets Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For details call (310) 394-9779 ext. 3, email Education@santamonicaplayhouse.com, or visit SantaMonicaPlayhouse.com.

 

Sarah A. Spitz is an award-winning public radio producer, now retired from KCRW, where she also produced arts stories for NPR. She writes features and reviews for various print and online publications. Contact her at culturewatch@smdp.com.

 

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