As a theatre geek, I’ve been pretty involved in the wonderful world of theatre for the past five years. I have seen my fair share of shows and was even #blessed enough to see Hamilton when it came to Denver in the spring of 2018. With time, the awe and wonder of every single production wears off. Eventually, you fancy yourself somewhat of a critic. You begin to decipher which productions hit the mark and which ones did not. But every once in a while, there is a show that completely takes you by surprise. For me, this show was VietGone at The Denver Center for the Performing Arts in the Ricketson Theatre.
Written by Qui Nguyen and directed by Seema Sueko, VietGone explores the real lives of Nguyen’s parents and their struggle during the Vietnam War. Fleeing Vietnam during the fall of Saigon, they met in an American refugee camp in 1975. With a captivating approach that incorporates humor, hip-hop influence, and raw emotion; the show is truly insightful to the way that Vietnamese people were affected by the VietCong. VietGone is especially successful at showing the different areas of life that were affected by war, and how each person learns to cope with the atrocity of war. One instance of this is when an American character comments that he lost a brother to the war. This leads the main character, Quang, to do a heartfelt hip-hop-esque song describing that he didn’t just lose a brother. He lost his entire family, life, home, and country to the war. He lost everything. These heartfelt moments are scattered throughout the show, but are not out of place amongst the ridiculous humor of the show.
From my experience in U.S. History classes, we are mainly taught about America’s role and potential regret about the war. It doesn’t offer much in the way of South Vietnamese perspective on America’s involvement. The show transformed my interpretation of the Vietnam War and challenged the notion that helping the South Vietnamese was a mistake when they viewed it as a godsend. Talk about a gut punch. Though the show is a comedy, there are some heavy messages and takeaways that come with it. It is cliché, but this show genuinely made me laugh, cry, and think deeply on what I just watched. VietGone is remarkably fresh relevant, despite taking place in the 1970’s.
I have to admit that I did not stop thinking or talking about this show for a solid week after I saw it. I really did not expect this show to shatter my entire viewpoint on something I’ve learned about many times in school. It really speaks the power of art and theatre. Just by telling others our story, we can open minds, change viewpoints, and inspire. Overall, VietGone is a beautiful and powerful show that everyone should be exposed to. It isn’t the popular powerhouse that Hamilton is, but it was in the same realm to me.