By Sandi Durell



Vietgone moves into newer territory for the usually staid pieces seen at Manhattan Theatre Club, bringing this story of love and a fictionalized tale of playwright Qui Nguyen’s parents’ meeting at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas military base in this very contemporary, flippant and free-wheeling play that includes rap, hip-hop (original music Shane Rettig), ninjas, on-going expletives and frequent timeline changes that can be a little head-spinning.


The actor (Paco Tolson) who plays Nguyen, comes on stage at the onset to let the audience know all characters are fictitious “especially for any person or persons related to the playwright . . . specifically his parents.” It’s a comedy with music that has serious overtones and a message about the Vietnam War, with backup projections to prove a point.


The more serious the moment, the more rap ensues. Jennifer Ikeda plays Tong, the young girl who escaped the Vietcong with her annoyingly harsh mother – Samantha Quan, rather jealous of her daughter’s freedom. Quang (Raymond Lee) is a helicopter pilot who was flying refugees out of Vietnam; he escapes leaving his wife and children behind. Tong is a very modern young woman, readily able to express her sexual desires with Tong as she quips “…Okay, let’s do it.” The chemistry crackles.


Although, the scene is set in 1975 (pre hip-hop), we’ll give it a pass as it somehow fits the playwright’s free-thinking vision and his artistic liberty.


The ensemble includes Jon Hoche, Tolson and Quan in several other roles.


The set design, by Tim Mackabee, is that of a desert highway, the billboards perfect for Jared Mezzocchi’s projections.


May Adrales directs this playful, yet serious piece and seems to know how to go with the flow, creating an excellent presence.


Manhattan Theatre Club at City Center – Stage 1, 131 W. 55 St., 212 581-1212, 2 hours, 20 minutes  thru November 27.

Photos: Carol Rosegg