San Francisco Fringe 2017
“Growing up in a bi-racial home with a white mother and a Vietnamese father, Kim spent years wishing away her father’s less-than-desirable immigrant status and skin color and all the painful family secrets she inherited. Determined to face her demons, she joins a volunteer organization in Vietnam. As she begins to discover the beauty of her roots, she decides to confront the trauma of her past and put its secrets behind her forever.”
Kim Chinh talks about her family, growing up bi-racial in the USA with an American mother and a father from Vietnam. Her father’s immigrant status in the USA was always on her mind as she was growing up. She saw it as a negative thing in her family. Now she has a wonderful opportunity to visit Vietnam – and suddenly so many memories emerge. Chinh is enthusiastic and well paced as her story unfolds in flashbacks. One minute she is riding on a motor-bike, the next she is at the beach. She dives straight in to her first day in Vietnam, drinking in the atmosphere and enjoying everything about her new experience.
Chinh’s time in Vietnam brings forward a lot of emotions, some stemming from the variety of unexpected reactions she receives by people she meets there, such as being taunted and others are closer to home. Chinh’s storytelling is personable and fresh – but her sweetness turns into bittersweet as time passes in the show. Family secrets come out as she meets different family members at different times in her life.
Chinh plays characters with vocal and physical changes for her mother, and younger version of herself. The stories and events are told through several sections divided with a brief black out. It sets up the episodes well, it is also a good device for this show and it holds the audience’s attention as the story develops and builds
Chinh is strong and brave – she is wily, too. And she sets in motion a series of events and meetings to figure out the secrets long held in the family.
The show, directed by Elizabeth Browning, is well structured and crafted, nuanced and meaningful. It is also unpredictable and hard to know what will come next. She reenacts scenes and conversations of her youth, growing up in Pittsburg with subtle characterizations. Chinh could benefit from evaluating her voice modulation in the spaces she performs in because her vocal range was soft volume at first, perhaps too soft, and later her louder volumes get a bit too loud.
Being in a foreign country is not always easy and Chinh recounts in detail her emotional arc and everyone surrounding her in the sixty-minute show. It is stealth storytelling, gripping at times yet very well performed with charm.