Vietgone | Alley Theater
If the idea of writing a sex comedy about your parents freaks you out, well, you’re not Qui Nguyen.
But when Nguyen set out to tell his family’s stories, he wanted to create three-dimensional Asian-American characters with agency – people who are complex, funny and sexy without being exoticized – because, he told Rolling Stone, “[g]rowing up, every Vietnamese narrative on the planet – from Platoon to Rambo to Miss Saigon – the main protagonist is always a white guy going to Vietnam and Vietnamese are the bad guys being shot at or the are the people who need saving,” adding, “In Vietgone, I specifically wanted the Asian characters to be their own heroes.”
When the Alley Theatre stages Vietgone this fall, Houstonians will get a chance to see Nguyen’s parents – the Superman and Wonder Woman versions of them. His father, Quang, was a helicopter pilot evacuated from Vietnam when Saigon fell in 1975, leaving behind a wife and two children. And his mother, Tong, was a U.S. Embassy worker who used her two plane tickets out for herself and her mother.
The two refugees meet at Fort Chaffee in Arkansas and audiences will get to witness their courtship through the lens of Nguyen, the co-artistic director of the New York-based “geek theater” company Vampire Cowboys and responsible for such works as Alice in Slasherland, Soul Samurai and Aliens Versus Cheerleaders. If it’s not apparent, that means you can expect pop culture references coming fast and furious, comic book tropes, ninjas and plenty of rapping. The Alley is even bringing in a music director/rap consultant for the production.
Vietgone is the first play in a planned series about Nguyen’s family. The second, Poor Yella Rednecks, premiered this past spring and revisits Tong and Quang as newly marrieds. And based on the critic and audience love Vietgone has already received, Houstonians may soon see Vietgone Part 2 (as it’s been jokingly called) coming to a stage near you.
Alley Theatre presents Vietgone October 4 to November 3, 2019.