Review Roundup: VIETGONE at San Diego Rep

Review Roundup: VIETGONE at San Diego RepSan Diego Rep presents VIETGONE, which opened January 25th and runs through February 18th. Written by Qui Nguyen, VIETGONE is a dramatized account of his parents own meeting and ensuing relationship. The two met in the 1970s when they immigrated to the United States following the fall of Saigon, and quickly fell in love. Both humorous and heartwarming, VIETGONE looks at the past through contemporary eyes.

VIETGONE is directed by Jesca Prudencio.

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Let's see what the critics had to say!

James Hebert, The San Diego Union-Tribune: Qui Nguyen's bursting-with-personality play, now getting a smartly rendered local premiere at San Diego Rep, does just fine on more conventional matters of good drama: rich and surprising characters, irresistible story momentum, and a sense of something original and important to say. But it's Nguyen's playful pop-culture savvy that helps make this funny, forthright and slyly affecting story his own - ninjas, hip-hop and all. Of course, "Vietgone" is the playwright's own story in a more literal way: He's a character in it, and the saga centers on his own parents and their real-life struggles as Vietnamese refugees in the 1970s.

Bill Eadie, San Diego Story: Mr. Nguyen gets the refugee experience of being plopped down in a new culture right, from the food, to the conditions in the camp, to the homesickness and the fantasies that the newcomers have about life in America. In particular, there is one extended fantasy that is staged (by George Yé) as a fight scene that is as funny and true as anything you're likely to see on a San Diego stage. Mr. Levin and Ms. Ko make an attractive couple, and the other performers shapeshift via costumes and wigs into the variety of characters the protagonists encounter. Ms. Coligado is particularly funny as Tong's mother, a two-time widow who is entirely resistant to assimilation while yearning for a man to notice her.

E. H. Reiter, BroadwayWorld: Ko and Levin make the chemistry and the emotional bond that develops between their characters, and their reluctance to speak those feelings lest they make them real, feel genuine. The rest of the characters are provided by the versatile supporting cast of Tauzon, Coligado, and Kao as they do quick changes and play over a dozen other characters between them. With an expansive cast of characters and events from relatives left in Vietnam, hippies, an American soldier, time shifts, and those aforementioned ninjas, there is a lot going on here. It can at times feel a bit like an "everything but the kitchen sink" kind of sprawling plot and tone (exactly the same problem Marvel movies tend to have come to think of it....). While the rap is a nice additional unconventional touch, it doesn't always illuminate inner thoughts so much as repeat what dialogue has already explained. A touch of editing would help to keep the creativity but make it a bit more streamlined as it tries to balance in a tug of war between the comic book aesthetic and realism.

Pat Launer, Times of San Diego: In the outstanding San Diego Rep production, there are several San Diego connections. Both the playwright and actor Ko received their MFAs at UC San Diego. The only local cast member is Shaun Tuazon, who plays five roles - though it seems like more - from the playwright to a Hippie Dude; a Redneck Biker to a shy Arkansas airman. It's a terrific showcase of malleability and physical flexibility for him, and he gives a funny edge to every character. Funny is the catchword in Act I which, under the direction of Jesca Prudencio, is often wacky and hilarious. There are near-aerial martial arts and earthbound hand-to-hand combat (kudos to fight choreographer George Yé), peppered with racial and farcical quips. Only at the end of the second act do things really get serious when, in 2015, the playwright is interviewing his father for dramatic inspiration. The Playwright wants to learn about his father's eight years fighting in the war, but his Dad (the older Quang) only wants to tell him amusing and embarrassing family stories. It's a deeply moving, revelatory interaction, in a play filled with memorable moments. Director Prudencio does an excellent job of handling the pace and tonal shifts, making us laugh and making us care.

Photo Courtesy of San Diego Rep.

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From This Author Leah Windahl

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