Qui Nguyen, the playwright behind the geeky She Kills Monsters, is back with another outstanding story that addresses stereotypes and social issues through humor and music.
Vietgone, showing at Mixed Blood Theatre through April 30, is not a story about the war in Vietnam. It is not a story about the transitions to American life by Vietnamese refugees. It’s not even about the politics of both countries surrounding the war. No, according Nguyen—who himself features in the story, played at Mixed Blood by Sherwin Resurreccion—it is a love story . . . with sex, profanity, hip-hop solos, hippies, and ninjas.
The play starts out with Resurreccion’s Nguyen giving a little insight to the premise of the play, which focuses on his parents, who met after separately escaping the fall of Saigon. His father, Quang (wonderfully portrayed by David Huynh), is a South Vietnamese fighter pilot who, through unfortunate circumstances, finds himself stranded in America along with his good friend, Nahn (Flordelino Lagundino). Nguyen’s mother, Tong (the beautifully talented Meghan Kreidler), has opted to come to America, dragging her mother, Huong, along with her. Sun Mee Chomet, playing the hilarious Huong, brings a tremendous amount of light and humor to the story.
Quang desperately tries to get to California to board a return ship to Vietnam, where he hopes to reunite with family. Tong desperately wants to learn about the American culture and start her new life. The two eventually meet at a refugee camp in Arkansas in 1975 and the love story begins. Huynh and Kreidler have great chemistry and make the scenes between their characters believable. Chomet is witty, sassy, and fantastically entertaining with her portrayal of Tong’s mother, obsessed with keeping Vietnamese traditions and returning home—and her daughter’s sex life. When the scenes get serious, the actors get rapping. The solo and duet raps by Huynh and Kreidler are filled with emotion and heartbreak; although I didn’t always feel the lyrics flowed well, the actors were consistently able to genuinely convey emotions being portrayed by their characters.
The dialogue is “reversed” in that the English-speaking audience has no problem understanding the Vietnamese characters, and the American characters in the play speak in stereotyped gibberish. At first I thought it would be offensive, but Nguyen has a knack for distributing sensitive issues in a very entertaining fashion. The dialogue, it should be noted, also comes with a plethora of foul language on the order of Kevin Smith’s Clerks. Profanity is by no means a deal breaker for me, but sometimes an overabundance can be distracting.
I cannot fail to mention the technical aspects of this production—the lights and sounds are spot on. The sound of bombs blasting and bright lights shining in the face of the audience was perfectly timed. Mixed Blood Theatre also has the capability to have captions scrolling above the stage; this was my first time in this theater, and it was a glorious experience.
If you haven’t already seen Vietgone, and I highly recommend you do, you still have time: there is a performance every day from Wednesday, April 26, through Sunday, April 30. More information is available on the Mixed Blood website or Facebook page.