I must admit that I am not overly fond of rehashing or going over the Viet Nam war. I seriously find it too painful. I remember those troubling years where we were involved in a war we had no business being in and where history, itself, showed us how fruitless it was. We went in and repeated the mistakes of France.
I went to school in Ohio and the Kent State shooting happened during my freshman year. My Ohio University campus was hit hard by rioting and the National Guard as well and after the Kent State event, we were given less than twenty-four hours to take our belongings home.
It was also a class war, a war in which often our poorest portion of the population was pretty much forced into it. I recall, with horror, seeing my Draft number, something put out to conscript for the military, and realizing that my number was not a good one. With a number like that, had I not been in college with a deferment, I would have been taken into a war that I did not agree with on so many levels. The number system was based on your birthday. They threw capsules representing all the days of the year in the hopper and pulled out days. I would have most assuredly been called. But when I graduated in 1969 from high school, I set off for college, where I remained until 1975 (BA, MA) and thus managed to avoid the draft, which ended, like the Viet Nam war, in 1975.
This brings me to Vietgone, a play that just opened for preview in Glencoe, Illinois at Writers Theatre. The play was magnificent and I was ready to deal with my feelings on the matter.
Reading the playbill, I realize that there was some concern for the play as to how the people in the area would find the subject and the intense use of words like mother f****r.
In the playbill, it says the following: “You should be prepared to laugh; to be taken on a wild road trip; to embrace a deliciously theatrical storytelling vocabulary.” It was on point.
The Play was written by Qui Nguyen and directed by Lavina Jadhwani.
The cast (often in multiple roles):
Tong – Aurora Adachi-Winter
Asian Guy/American Guy/Nhan/Khue – Rammel Chan
Asian Girl/American Girl/Thu/Huong/Translator/Flower Girl – Emjoy Gavino
Playwright/Giai/Bobby/Captain Chambers/Redneck Biker/Hippie Dude – Ian Michael Minh
Quang – Matthew C. Yee
The play is very entertaining and delves into all sorts of aspects of the American Culture going back to the American departure from Viet Nam in 1975 to the present as well as our dealings with the Vietnamese and their relationship to America, Americans, and the American culture.
Every emotion affecting the Vietnamese being forced to leave seems to have been covered. Some reactions were almost surprising to me as the play makes you realize that everyone has a different way of reacting to things. There is joy and there is sadness and for all sorts of reasons.
There is rap in the play, somewhat akin to what you find in ‘Hamilton’ and for those who fear not understanding, that is not an issue.
The language is colorful but it definitely belongs in the play.
This is a brilliant way for an American by name of Qui Nguyen, who was raised in Arkansas of all places, to bring a true personalization of the whole experience to our eyes.
This is a must see and a no dozing kind of play.