The actors portraying the members of Alison Bechdel's family in Paramount Theatre's Fun Home stand together. Mother Helen is on the left, in a dark blue cardigan, followed by John in a blue jacket, Alison in a red cardigan and striped top, Christian, also in a blue jacket, and father Bruce in a gray checked suit.
Fun Home at Paramount's Copley Theatre in Aurora Credit: Liz Lauren

Alison Bechdel’s family, captured first in her 2006 graphic memoir Fun Home and then in a Tony Award-winning 2015 chamber musical (music by Jeanine Tesori, book and lyrics by Lisa Kron), feels right at (uneasy) home on the intimate Copley Theatre stage in downtown Aurora. Presented as part of Paramount’s “Bold” series of seemingly more challenging fare than that at the flagship theater across the street, Jim Corti and Landree Fleming’s staging is practically note-perfect—as emotionally rich an experience as you’ll find anywhere onstage right now.

Fun Home
Through 9/18: Wed 1:30 and 7 PM, Thu 7 PM, Fri 8 PM, Sat 2 and 8 PM, Sun 1 and 5:30 PM, Copley Theatre, 8 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora, 630-896-6666, paramountauroracom, $67-$74

Three actors portray the budding cartoonist at different times of life: Emilie Modaff’s grown-up Alison serves as narrator and tour guide, looking back on life in small-town Pennsylvania with her closeted and mercurial father, Bruce (Stephen Schellhardt), who teaches high school English and runs the family funeral home (hence the title), and mother Helen (Emily Rohm), who seemingly keeps her emotions buttoned up until it’s time to go onstage at the local community theater. (Shades of Revolutionary Road.)

Small Alison (Maya Keane on the night I attended, alternating in the role with Milla Liss) tries to make sense of all the things that aren’t said in the family’s beautifully renovated vintage home, where everyone operates at a distance from each other, and where her “tomboy” ways and nascent artistic instincts are both smothered by her father’s obsession with order. He can’t control the chaos of family life, though, any more than he can control his attraction to younger men and boys. “We can make it better than a cartoon,” Schellhardt’s Bruce hollers at his daughter as she tries to explain why she chose that genre for a school project. He’s both proud of her talent and utterly dismissive of how she chooses to apply it, and that paradox runs throughout their relationship.

Medium Alison (Elizabeth Stenholt) acts upon her own closeted yearnings at Oberlin when she meets a woman, Joan (Devon Hayakawa), who turns her topsy-turvy, as expressed in the lyric, “I’m changing my major to Joan.” Music director Kory Danielson’s seven-piece band brings lovely texture and nuance to Tesori’s gorgeous score. If you’ve never seen this show, or have only seen it on a big proscenium stage, it may well be worth the trip to Aurora for this bountiful, aching embodiment of Bechdel’s story.