BWW Previews: HIP HOP, SEX COMEDY FAIRYTALE VIETGONE LAUNCHES NEW SEASON at American Stage
Described as a "hip hop, sex-comedy fairytale" by director Brian Balcom, "Vietgone" written by Qui Nguyen, is having its regional premiere on October 2, launching the 2019-2020 season at American Stage.
Through music, sharp dialogue and a comic book-inspired stylized set, "Vietgone" is a modern telling of the boy-meets-girl love story. It's the playwright's story of how his parents fled the Vietnam War and fell in love in an American relocation refugee camp in Arkansas during the most difficult time in their lives. Quang and Tong are waiting to start their new lives in America.
"It's a story about destiny, resilience, bravery, and love. Qui Nguyen comes from a comic-book-style world. He writes for Marvel comic books. Heightened visual language is a part of the way he's been working for a long time. 'Vietgone' blends a lot of those elements. We have music, rap, fighting, dancing, and even a montage from many familiar movies from pop culture," said Brian. "Jerid, the scenic designer, latched on to the idea of a pop-up book - like whenever you turn the next page, things would sort of jump out at you in heightened, stylized, caricatured way."
Starring Jeff Kim (Quang), Sami Ma (Tong), Jodi Kimura (Huong/others, Kenny Tran (Nhan/others), and Vi Tran (Bobby/Playwright/others), "Vietgone" is an immigrant love story from a first-person perspective. Emotions in the play are grounded in reality, but the action that the characters take go further than most display in their everyday lives.
"This is very much a play about finding a new home in a new land. 'Vietgone' is not a foreign story but an American story; a journey that people have been making to this country for centuries," said Brian. "While the narrative message of the play is very much about love and being open, willing and excited about what comes next, the social theme is that immigrants have an incredible amount of bravery to come to a new world and start a new life where they don't know the language, know where anything is, and cannot read anything they see on the streets. Gaining that new language and a new set of skills to make it in this country, they set up a better life for the generations that come after. This story is the telling of how Qui's parents got together and how he has the life he does today."
The play takes a look at two different sides of bravery - Quang takes a cross-country trip in an attempt to return to Vietnam and be reunited with his family secretly. Tong seeks to move forward with her life by exploring her new home in America.
A character based on interviews with Qui's father offered a perspective not typically addressed about the Vietnam War.
"His father was tired of people apologize for the U.S. involvement in the war. He had problems hearing politicians say 'this could be another Vietnam.' From his perspective, the South Vietnamese were being slaughtered by the North Vietnamese, supported by China and Russia. Atrocities were being committed. When America arrived with all their military might and force, it was a relief. The American presence gave him hope that his country might be saved. When the United States withdrew, it was devastating to him personally. This is an interesting point of view on international policy and involvement that we don't hear every day."
Brian said that anyone who is champion of love should come to see the show.
"Hopefully, it gives people hope that something can be made of nothing, that the next person they see might be the love of their lives," he said. "It's an extremely entertaining play that has a lot of heart and power. After seeing 'Vietgone,' I hope people will be excited about turning over a new leaf in their lives and excited for what's next."
Vietgone is October 2 - November 3 at American Stage, 163 3rd Street North St. Petersburg, FL 33701 Preview is Wednesday, Oct. 2, 7pm, "Pay What You Can" or $20 in advance Preview Thursday, Oct. 3, 7pm, $30 tickets Opening Night: Friday, Oct. 4, 8pm, $70 tickets (includes opening night reception at 7pm, and a dessert reception with the cast following the performance.) Learn more or purchase tickets at https://americanstage.org/VIETGONE.