Ben Levin in "Vietgone" at the San Diego Repertory Theatre. Photograph by Daren Scott
The ingenuity of playwright Qui Nguyen is on exuberant display in the San Diego Repertory Theatre’s production of Nguyen’s 2015 Vietgone. His “geek theater” play is populated by everything from renegade bikers and pot-happy hippies to sword-wielding ninja warriors. At the core, however, is the story of how Nguyen’s Vietnamese parents fled following the fall of Saigon and met up in the good ol’ USA, where a sex-crazed love affair began.
In spite of a good deal of sophomoric comedy and some anachronistic rapping, Vietgone advances a thoughtful, sobering premise about the war and its aftermath from the viewpoint of those whose country was its bloody battleground. In an all-around impassioned performance, Ben Levin soars as Viet pilot Quang, while Katherine Ko brings attitude and fire to the part of his lover, Tong, whose ardency conceals many hurts. A graphic novel come to life, Vietgone is at times overwrought and searching for easy laughs, but its meditative side has staying power. (Review originally published in San Diego CityBeat on 2/7/18.)
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.