By John Liu
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Have you heard of Vietgone? That’s what my friend asked me over Facebook messenger. I actually thought Vietgone was an auto-correct for Rogue One, the new Star Wars movie that just came out. My friend was looking for two tickets for himself and his wife, but all 34 shows had been sold out, except for one seat. As a FOMO (Fear of Missing out) myself, I quickly snatched it up at $62 and thanked my friend.
I started my research to find out as much as I could about the play. On Oct. 4, Vietgone began performances at the Manhattan Theater Club in New York. Vietgone, written by Qui Nguyen, is loosely based on his parent’s journey to America as Vietnamese refugees in 1975. After watching the play, it definitely reminded me of Miss Saigon. However, Qui not only made sure the characters weren’t stereotypes, he went in the extreme opposite direction. In an interview with the New York Times, Qui made sure to have “strong Asian American characters.” He said, “They’re cool, and they’re sexy, and they’re not exotic. They can be feminist, strong women, and they can be sexy men.” Characters spoke perfect English to represent spoken Vietnamese and gibberish English to represent spoken English. The two main protagonists, Quang and Tong were indeed sexy and extremely vulgar. To illustrate this, they performed raps filled with multiple profanities. I felt some of it was excessive. One scene in particular that stuck out to me was when Tong is having a nightmare about the horrors of the Vietnam War. I don’t want to ruin it, but this scene will quickly grab your attention if you’re dozing off. There was random comic relief thrown in, like a kung fu battle with ninjas. The final scene does a great job addressing the unpopularity of the Vietnamese War and juxtaposing it with Vietnamese refugees.
Qui’s parents have no plans to see their son’s play. Understandably, this is not an experience many Vietnamese refugees want to relive. I feel blessed I was able to get the last ticket and experience this masterpiece. Qui currently works as a screenwriter for Marvel Studios.
Vietgone is playing until Jan. 1, 2017, but is completely sold out.
John can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.