In the midst of Asian & Pacific American Heritage Month in these our troubled and divisive times, Company One proffers a spit-fire zinger of a disturbingly delicious Asian-American remedy in the form of Qui Nguyen’s VIETGONE, which is currently playing between April 26 to May 25, 2019 at the | Plaza Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts.”
“In this road-trip-meets-sex-comedy, motorbikes and ninjas and Marvin Gaye juxtapose themselves against the backdrop of war-torn Vietnam and the sterile barracks of Fort Chaffee,” writes Ilana M. Brownstein, director of New Work at Company One.
“When Saigon fell in 1975, citizens fled the city by any means necessary, headed anywhere ‘safe.’ Thousands ended up in military bases-turned-refugee-camps scattered across America, where things were not exactly like the travel brochures….But this isn’t really a story about war — it’s about the messy, conflicted, joyful, dirty ways humans fall in love, even when the world seems to be falling apart. It’s also about what happens when a playwright takes control of his own inconvenient history, weaving together truth and fantasy and everything in between, ” Brownstein explained.
Nguyen’s parents informed him that they “fell in love at first sight,” but in reality, it was just a hook up in a refugee camp in Arkansas after the fall of Saigon! Set in the backdrop of the Vietnam war during the 1960s and 70s, this play is essentially a politically incorrect, facetious, raunchy, psychedelic spectacle of war, love, sex, rock & roll, kung fu fighting and ninjas! Be prepared to bear witness to muscular male bodies, two piece bikinis, an omnipresent bed coupled with Marvin Gayes’s “Let’s Get It On…” which is sure to have you come close to edging on your seat.
Yet it is also filled with intelligent observation and assertions, evoking both empathy and inciting need for action against socially constructed ills of our society such as racial injustice, scapegoating, stereotyping and bemused condescending sense of complacency, disparagement and indifference from a surplus of the the white majority towards most often aggrieved and marginalized minorities. It attempts and to a large extant succeeds in exploring the Vietnam war through the lens of the playwright’s father, particularly the point of contention that some Americans felt that the war was futile and that America should have not been there to begin with.
VIETGONE is a vibrant colorful blast with effective and inventive quick change staging, political messaging, witty and informative dialogue, funky contemporary music and plenty of eroticism to keep both your ears and eyes vigilant. It speaks to current political issues such as racism, the immigrant experience and intolerance but renders a production infused with levity, laughter and hope for an increasingly multicultural-multiracial America.
It might help to remind us that, within the context of immigrant contributions to the U.S., that Asian American migrants have made valuable benefactions to the economic bastion that is the United States of America. Just before the Civil War, during the building of the transcontinental railroad that would unite the east with the American west, the Central Pacific railroad experienced a labor shortage in the scantily settled west. There simply wasn’t enough white people. It enlisted Cantonese workers in China who did monumental work in constructing the line over and through the Sierra Nevada mountains and then across Nevada to their meeting in northern Utah; thus in part made possible a continuous rail line trussing locations on the U.S. pacific coast with one or more of those on the eastern trunk rail systems that would be known as the United States transcontinental railroad. This would help boost trade, commerce and travel and yielded large regions in the north American heartlands for settlement; this made possible in part by Asian immigrants.
This play serves as a reminder that all of us, who are not indigenous Native Americans, are either migrants or American born descendants of migrant groups who came to America from somewhere else and that our prima facie differences, our disparate cultural ingredients are what constitutes our unique American flavor and identity; that which should unite not divide us. Whether it was on the Mayflower or on Ellis Island on the New York harbor; our families knelt at the foot of the statue of liberty in search for something better than where they came from. All of us, in some way shape or form, contribute to what constitutes America or land of immigrants!
“The best two hours of my life!” Exclaimed one audience member. See it and YOU be the judge. I give VIETGONE 5 out of 5 stars!
For further information, click here.
Jacques Fleury’s books Sparks in the Dark: A Lighter Shade of Blue, A Poetic Memoir about life in Haiti & America was featured in the Boston Globe. It’s Always Sunrise Somewhere and Other Stories is a collection of short fictional stories spanning the pervasive human condition. Their topics range from politics to romantics, from sex to sexuality, from religion to oppression. 20% of proceeds for both books will go to Haiti charity Partners In Health.