Review: “Vietgone” at Capital Stage
Playwright Qui Nguyen was never going to tell his Vietnamese parents’ story in a traditional way. His theater style is bold and in-your-face, all while subverting Asian-American stereotypes.
Nguyen sticks to his own rules in Vietgone, his self-described “action sex comedy” about his family’s history that’s raw, funny, raunchy and a bit sentimental, with Hamilton-style rap lyrics, pop-culture references, brash humor, fast-paced dialogue and more than a couple of sex scenes.
His parents’ story is neither linear, nor saccharine. His father, Quang, was a helicopter pilot for South Vietnam’s air force who had a wife and two kids before fleeing and landing in Arkansas, where he hooked up with Nguyen’s tenacious and outspoken mom, Tang, in a refugee camp.
For the Sacramento debut of Vietgone, Capital Stage has gathered a vibrant, cohesive cast and top-notch director Jeffrey Lo, all from the Bay Area.
Jomar Tagatac gives us a swaggering, sexy Quang while Rinabeth Apostol answers with a sharp-tongued, do-as-she pleases Tang—both bringing fuel to the couple’s fiery chemistry. Michelle Talgarow plays several characters, including the protective mother bear, not afraid to insert herself in everyone’s life. Rounding out the cast with numerous characters are actors Anthony Chan and David Crane.
What makes Vietgone so powerful is Nguyen’s way of inviting the audience to witness American culture through the eyes of immigrants. These are refugees who have lost country, family and identity, who see the Vietnam War through a different lens, and who must rebuild lives and loves in a brand new world.