Vietgone at Writer's Theatre personalizes the war in Hamilton-esque fashion

Vietgone at Writer's Theatre personalizes the war in Hamilton-esque fashion

Part musical, part comedy, part drama, Playwright Qui Nguyen’s wildly creative, Vietgone, now running at Writer's Theater takes the audience on a pit-filled road trip from Saigon to Ft. Chaffee, Arkansas.  

Playwright Qui Nguyen’s wildly creative, irreverent style flips stereotypes, remixes history and culture creating a look at America of 1975--land of cowboys and hippies--through the lens of Vietnamese refugees.

The cast of five moves smoothly through multiple roles with Aurora Adachi-Winter as Tong, Rammel Chan as Asian Guy/American Guy/Nhan/Khue; Emjoy Gavino as Asian Girl/American Girl/Thu/Huong/Translator/Flower Girl; Ian Michael Minh as Playwright/Giai/Bobby/Captain Chambers/Redneck Biker/Hippie Dude and Matthew C. Yee (as Quang).

Michael Minh, Matthew-Yee

Michael Minh, Matthew-YeeThe story came together after countless hours of interviews with his parents, most notably his father.

The playwright (Nguyen) spent countless hours interviewing his parents most notably his father to put the story together.

He learned that his father, Quang Nguyen, was a helicopter pilot for the South Vietnam Air Force and that he had a wife and two children in Vietnam.

After the fall of Saigon in April 1975, Quang helped Vietnamese allies flee by helicopter, but had to leave his own family behind when he was evacuated.

Though the interviews, the playwright leaned that his mom, too, had to leave loved ones behind including a younger brother and boyfriend when she fled Vietnam taking along her mother.

He also discovered that his parents' meeting wasn't love at first sight, like they'd told him. It was originally just a hook up.

Emjoy Gavino, Aurora-Adachi- Winter

Emjoy Gavino, Aurora-Adachi- Winter

Nguyen incorporated what he learned from his parents into a fast-paced, sexy, funny and at times heartbreaking multimedia production using rap, rapid scene changes, a story that navigates the past and explores the present (1975) moving back and forth between America and Vietnam--putting things in perspective with an innovative spin on critical moments of those times.

The creative team includes: Yu Shibagaki (scenic), Melissa Ng (costumes), Sarah Hughey (lighting), Kevin O’Donnell (sound), Rasean Davonte Johnson (projections), Dwight Sora (assistant director) and Carol Ann Tan (production dramaturg). The production stage manager is David Castellanos. The play is directed by Lavina Jadhwani, 

A word from Michael Halberstam

Vietgone is one of the most creative, vibrant and entertaining plays to emerge on the American stage in the past few years,” said Artistic Director Michael Halberstam.” Qui Nguyen handles his subject matter with great originality and a generous eye towards keeping the audience engaged, while not shying away from a very sophisticated narrative. Furthermore, thanks in no small part to pioneers like Lin Manuel Miranda and The Q Brothers, hip-hop culture and rap music have become an organic part of the current theatrical conversation and Mr. Nguyen uses the vernacular to great effect. In fact, Vietgone feels somewhat like producing a musical. The piece fills the epic canvas of the Nichols stage with its integral musical score and choreographic sequences, while adhering to the intimacy that is a hallmark of the Writers Theatre experience."

Rating: 3 stars
What: Vietgone
Where:  325 Tudor Court in Glencoe
When: now through September 23, 2018
Tickets: $35 - $80. Subscriptions and individual tickets may be purchased online at, by phone at 847-242-6000 or in person at the box office
Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Warning: the show contains strong language with liberal use of the 'f' word and adult themes

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Filed under: Theater in Chicago

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