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Review: A GIRL NAMED SUE is Sweet and Savory Must See Theatre

There is a lot of original theatre that happens here in Austin and it spans the gamut in terms of quality. A GIRL NAMED SUE, a new play by Christine Hoang, now in its World Premiere production in the Trinity Street Theatre, is among the best this town has to offer, both in terms of quality and in execution. Ms. Hoang has crafted a funny, witty and touching play that examines inter-cultural as well as interracial relationships all set in the world of coffee house collegiate culture. It manages to deliver a powerful message without ever being high handed or preachy. It does what all good theatre must do first and foremost: entertain.

Ms. Hoang clearly has an ear and a gift for dialogue. Her characters interact with a sense of intimacy in completely believable interchanges. Without spoiling too much, the play is a look into the judgements of people, both close and distant, on relationships, specifically interracial relationships.

Punctuating the scenes in the play is the beautiful music of Betty Soo, who begins as a sort of external commentator, but ends up as part of the play in the end, playing herself. Her voice is absolutely gorgeous and her songs reminded me of the music of Janis Ian, particularly the painfully exquisite poetry of such songs as "At Seventeen" and "Stars". Being introduced to her artistry would be worth the admission price alone.

Director Karen Jambon has done a marvelous job with this piece. It moves fluidly and she has pulled lovely performances from the cast. I was surprised when I looked and saw the time at the end, as it flew by. Ann Marie Gordon's multi purpose set works perfectly to convey both coffee house and other locales. Amy Lewis's lighting design is perfect for the production. Zac Brummett has created a clever sound design that playfully comments on the action by the use of pop music. One very lovely touch most audience members didn't even see was the coffee house open sign being flipped to closed as the audience exited.

The cast here is universally good. Uyen-Anh Dang as Sue Nguyen is both charming and believable in the tricky innocence required of the character. Toni Lorene Baker is great as the wounded best friend Talisa. Matrex Kilgore does a solid job as smooth operator Cash, the character that isn't looking for anything more than a good time. The standout performances of the piece; however, belong to Jeffrey Da'Shade Johnson as Rashad and Christine Hoang as Mrs. Nguyen. Johnson has a wicked sense of comedic timing and knows how to toss off a dry line to maximum effect. Hoang proves she not only has great comic ability and timing, but the skill to convey the unique hurt of a parent for their child... and she does all of this while speaking mostly Vietnamese.

In all, I found A GIRL NAMED SUE to be as sweet and savory as Mrs. Nguyen's oft referred to egg rolls. This is must see Austin theatre at it's best.

A GIRL NAMED SUE by Christine Hoang
Original songs written and performed by Betty Soo

Running Time: Two Hours and Thirty Minutes, including intermission

A GIRL NAMED SUE, produced by Color Arc Productions at Trinity Street Theatre (901 Trinity Street, Austin, TX, 78701)
Thursdays-Sundays, February 24 - March 12, 2017
Tickets $15, $25 VIP (early seating and drink), $100 for VIP table for two.
Tickets for Reserved VIP tables are very limited. Only 4 VIP tables (2 seats per table) are available per show. Unsold/unclaimed tickets will be released 5 minutes before every show for pay-what-you-can admission.

From This Author - Frank Benge

A Kansas native, Frank Benge has been involved in the Austin area theatre scene as a Director, Designer, Writer and Performer for the past 20 years. He holds a double BA in Theatre and English from... (read more about this author)