One of the many things I’ve learned while reviewing theater in Boston over the last several years is that if a production is bold, exciting, and makes me feel alive, chances are it’s a Company One production.
Even the imperfect productions—and there are almost as many at C1 as there are at most other theaters in Boston—vibrate with such an urgency and vigor that it’s hard not to be in awe. Company One’s latest mounting—a deliriously fun and funny love story set in the aftermath of the Vietnam War—is a great example of how an imperfect play is given the Company One treatment and winds up being one of the surest bets in town.
Qui Nguyen’s Vietgone is a Technicolor and cinematic romantic comedy based on the story of how Nguyen’s parents met at a Vietnamese refugee camp in Arkansas in 1975. Quentin Nguyen-Duy plays Quang (the character based on the playwright’s father) with a sly, badass goofiness, making him the ideal leading man for this heartfelt quirk of a story. He left family behind in Vietnam, but so did Tong (a luminous Christina Mei Chen), who finds herself lonely and horny, thinking that maybe Quang is the guy that can scratch her itch.
The romantic plot of Vietgone is relatively straightforward, and part of the problem with the play is that it takes so long in the first act to get nowhere at all; it isn’t until Quang and Tong first hook up that the play really catches fire. And there are also random hip-hop musical numbers throughout the play that are unconvincing, tentatively performed, and wholly out of place.
But when Vietgone hits its stride—which it ultimately does in the second act—it approaches a kind of delirium that all but neutralizes the shortcomings of its first act; there is even a ridiculous ninja battle that had me crying with laughter. A wizardly trio of performers—Rob Chen, Kim Klasner, and Jude Torres—cover 16 roles between them and infuse each with comedic perfection. Director Michelle Aguillon manages to mostly strike just the right balance between heart and raucous comedy, and she is especially successful in her sprawling and smart staging, not always an easy feat in the Plaza Theatre.
Vietgone is a remarkably original theatrical blast with charm to burn, a refreshing and effervescent tonic that you’ll likely find hard to resist.
VIETGONE. THROUGH 5.25 AT COMPANY ONE THEATRE AT THE BCA PLAZA THEATRE, 539 TREMONT ST., BOSTON. COMPANYONE.ORG