‘Vietgone’ opens in OSF’s Thomas Theatre

Playwright Qui Nguyen's irreverent comedy chronicles his parents' journey from Vietnam to America

Posted Mar. 28, 2016 at 3:22 PM

With its electric combination of humor, sexuality, saltiness and tenderness — along with ninja fights for good measure — “Vietgone” is the story of playwright Qui Nguyen’s parents’ 1975 escape from war-torn Saigon to a relocation camp in Arkansas.
Rather than telling his family’s story through a sentimental lens, Nguyen opted for a different approach and created, in his words, “a sex comedy about my parents.”
When the play premiered at South Coast Repertory in 2015, the Los Angeles times enthused that “… Nguyen’s antic manner conveys the extent of his characters’ losses and their brave determination to survive them more piercingly than a sentimentally somber work would.”
This look at young Vietnamese immigrants making their way through the bewildering landscape of 1970s America — a land filled with incomprehensible language and awkward customs — will preview at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 30, 1:30 p.m. Friday, April 1, and 8 p.m. Saturday, April 2, and open at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, April 3, in the Thomas Theatre on the Oregon Shakespeare Festival campus, 15 S. Pioneer St., Ashland. Tickets run from $30 to $110.
Tickets and information are available online at osfashland.org or by calling 800-219-8161.
Nguyen is co-founder of Vampire Cowboys Theatre Company, a downtown New York City theater company established in 2000. It’s an Obie and Caffe Cino award-winning “geek theater” that creates and produces new works based on action, adventure and dark comedy with a comic-book aesthetic. The company actively pursues the blending of different genres with varied theatrical styles to create an eclectic structure to tell its stories.
The cast of “Vietgone” features James Ryen as Quang, Jeena Yi as Tong, Will Dao as Asian Guy, American Guy, Nhan, Khue and other characters, Amy Kim Waschke as Thu, Huong, Asian girl, American girl and others, and Paco Tolson as playwright, Giai, Bobby and others.
Director May Adrales has been part of “Vietgone” from the first draft of the play.
“Vietgone is one of the most important plays I’ve worked on to date,” Adrales says in a press release. “It speaks to the resilience, courage and strength of the Vietnamese, giving voice to often voiceless refugees. It’s a love story first and foremost between two people who have lost absolutely everything but their sense of humor and their ability to love.
“Never before have I staged a production replete with raps, kung fu fights, motorcycle bumps and runs and a romantic montage sequence. Never before have I laughed and cried and been so thoroughly changed by a piece of theater.”
“Vietgone” is a finalist for the Harold and Mimi Steinberg and American Theatre Critics Association’s New Play Award, recognizing playwrights for the best scripts that premiered professionally outside New York City during 2015. “Vietgone” also was a finalist for the 2016 Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History.
Scenic and costume design for Vietgone is by Sara Ryung Clement, and lighting is by Seth Reiser. Shane Rettig is composer/sound designer, Lydia G. Garcia is dramaturg, David Carey is voice and text director, Shawn Duan is video designer and Karl Alphonso is stage manager. Playwright Qui Nguyen also serves as fight director, with U. Jonathan Toppo as associate fight director.

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