BWW Review: Strong Performances & Visuals Propel VIETGONE
East West Players solidly mounts the Los Angeles premiere of playwright Qui Nguyen's VIETGONE. With a sturdy cast of five talented performers, complemented greatly by the vividly vibrant projection designs of Kaitlyn Pietras and Jason H. Thompson; many individual moments of heart-string tugging pathos score a bulls-eye. Scenes centering around Glenn Michael Baker's prop motorcycles result in fine physical comedy bits (especially the comic fight , with ninjas, choreographed by Thomas Isao Morinaka and Aaron Aoki). Jennifer Chang ably directs her committed cast as they span locations from Vietnam to Arkansas to California, from the 1970s to the 2010s.
VIETGONE tells the story of Vietnamese refugees adjusting to their unexpected life in relocation camp Fort Chaffee, and with an obliging foster family in Arkansas.
Paul Yen totally inhabits his role of Quang, the military pilot longing to reunite with his two children left behind in Vietnam. Yen's at his most charming as the older Quang being interviewed on his military history by his adult son.
Sylvia Kwan IS the self-described bitch Tong. Not your stereotypical Vietnamese girl in any way, Kwan's Tong makes for a great lust interest for Yen's Quang. These two have hot (and romantic) chemistry.
Jane Lui brings the comedy as Tong's mother Huong, an inappropriately-acting mother of only 39 years old. Lui's mother/daughter scenes with Kwan ring awesome authenticity. Amongst Lui's variety of supporting roles, her physical clownery dance moves as Translator demands spotlight attention.
Scott Ly and Albert Park both play a number of versatile roles each. Ly's the perfect 'bro' to Quang as Nhan; then, as Khue, the ideal brother and son to Tong and Huong, respectively. Credit to two of VIETGONE's heart-string tugging scenes go to Ly in his scenes with Khue's sister and Khue's mother. Park mines comedy gold as the sniveling, so pathetic Giai begs, BEGS Tong to be his wife. Park also comically registers as the fawning Caucasian camp worker Bobby.
VIETGONE should play well with the younger audience demographic, as Nguyen skews younger with plenty of street slang, cussing and rapping from his Vietnamese characters.