Not everyone is lucky enough to be born into “The Brady Bunch” or “The Partridge Family.” Some of us, like graphic writer Alison Bechdel, find ourselves in a complicated situation that may take half a lifetime to unravel for understanding. To enter Alison’s unusual world, the Music Theatre of Connecticut in Norwalk is offering an intriguing opportunity until Sunday, May 6 and you need to be present for the startling revelations,.
Here we meet Alison at three ages, vulnerability and questioning at only ten with Caitlin Kops, Middle Alison at nineteen in college with Megan O’Callaghan and finally at forty-three with the perspective of adulthood with Amy Griffin. Each Alison is wonderfully moving as each searchs for understanding, trying to determine her place in a complicated family scenario. Some of her confusion is revealed while she is in college when she realizes she is a lesbian, as she blossoms in her relationship to Joan (Abby Root). Opening that closet door ultimately helps her when she discovers her dad Bruce, a conflicted Greg Roderick, is also gay. Bruce is often violent, suffers from depression and has a destructive predilection for young boys, all of whom are portrayed by Anthony Crouchelli..
When her dad commits suicide, Alison’s search for answers intensifies. She turns to her mother Helen, a silently suffering Raissa Katona Bennett, for understanding. Her mom oversees the raising of Alison and her two younger brothers Christian (Jonah Frimmer) and John (Ari Frimmer) while her dad teaches high school, restores old houses and runs a funeral home. Not every child plays hide-and-seek among coffins. For Alison, growing up in a small Pennsylvania town raises more questions than it answers. Trying to understand her father and his secret life, in the midst her own growing sexuality, leads her to write her feelings in a series of journals. Now, with the advantage of hindsight as an adult, she starts to “remember” the clues from the past that impact the present.
This multiple Tony Award winning Best Musical by Lisa Kron for book and lyrics and Jeanine Tesori for music was created from Bechdel’s graphic novel. Director Kevin Connors calls the distinctly different work “ground breaking.” As a cartoonist, Alsion examines the world in a series of quirky art drawings as she becomes a detective probing her past to open the mysteries of her childhood. The biggest query becomes who is her dad and what role did she play in his death, if any?
For tickets ($30-55), call Music Theatre of CT, 509 Westport Avenue, Norwalk (behind Nine West Shoes) at 203-454-3883 or online at www.musictheatreofct.com. Performances are Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
For wonderfully affective theater, let Alison Bechdel literally and figurative draw you into her world as she examines her distinctive unique family through wide open adult eyes.