Review: MY HOME ON THE MOON at SF Playhouse

What did our critic think of MY HOME ON THE MOON at SF Playhouse?

By: Feb. 05, 2024
Review: MY HOME ON THE MOON at SF Playhouse

The World Premiere of Mina Lee’s At Home on the Moon is much more than a touching perspective on the love of one’s ethnic food which is handled lovingly. Lee taps the more disturbing issue of gentrification and neighborhood decimation to introduce an AI fantasy posing far more important concerns and elevating the play’s social import.

Review: MY HOME ON THE MOON at SF Playhouse
Consultant Vera (Rinabeth Apostol) learns about cooking from Mai (Jenny Nguyen Nelson).

Pho restaurant owner Lan (Sharon Omi) and her chef Mai (Jenny Nguyen Nelson) are bemoaning the lack of business and increasing gentrification of their neighborhood when a lifeline appears in the form of a corporate grant from a mysterious telecom company. Only there’s no money, rather a curious marketing consultant named Vera (Rinabeth Apostol) who provides for the restaurants every need. Soon Lan and Mai are a tremendous success – Lan is ecstatic and feels blessed by her ancestors and comforted in her remembrances of life in war torn Vietnam. Mai, who was reluctant at first, gets new dishes added to the menu with corny names which Vera explains are “puns are an elevated display of wit.”

Review: MY HOME ON THE MOON at SF Playhouse
(L-R) A food critic (Will Dao) samples cuisine, watched by Lan (Sharon Omi), Mai (Jenny Nguyen Nelson) and a camera person (Erin Mei-Ling Stuart).

It becomes apparent to us that Vera is not human, rather an AI bot. She malfunctions when tasting real food, talks like Data from Star Trek and believes technology provides new ways to be happy. Here the play takes off in an exploration of the ups and downs of AI – the restaurant doesn’t really exist anymore having been demolished, only existing in a simulation including an ever-growing Vietnamese jungle and instantaneous manifestations by Vera.

Review: MY HOME ON THE MOON at SF Playhouse
Vera (Rinabeth Apostol) is visited by CEO Gigi (Erin Mei-Ling Stuart).

Lee begs the question of the power of AI to make our lives better with smooth rendering and slick graphics or is it just a panacea for human troubles. Can we be happy living in the matrix even when we know we are? Hard choices need to be made by Mai and Lan and the audience as well. What started as a clarion call against gentrification blooms into a cautionary tale of the power and perhaps serious implications of AI.

My Home on the Moon continues through February 24th. For more information, please visit®id=18&  or call the box office at (415) 677-9596.

Photo Credit: Jessica Palopoli