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Radar L.A. Review: 'Uncle Ho To Uncle Sam' At The Kirk Douglas Theater

Stefanie Martinez |
September 24, 2013 | 4:20 p.m. PDT

"Uncle Ho to Uncle Sam" by Trieu Tran. Photo courtesy Radar LA
"Uncle Ho to Uncle Sam" by Trieu Tran. Photo courtesy Radar LA
Trieu Tran may be a familiar face: he has appeared in "Tropic Thunder," "How High," and can currently be seen portraying graphics producer Joey Phan on the HBO drama "The Newsroom." These days, he is also starring in a one-man play currently running at the Kirk Douglas Theater.

Directed by Robert Egan, the 90-minute performance holds your attention as Tran tells his story from his own eyes. "Uncle Ho to Uncle Sam" gives the audience insight into the life of a Vietnamese immigrant trying to find his place in the world. A collaborative effort with Egan, the idea was first developed at the Ojai Playwrights Conference.

The narrative tells the tale of an abusive father, a family trying to escape Vietnam, and coming to terms with embracing who you are while dealing with the shadows of your past. Trieu Tran’s experiences captivate the audience from beginning to end with his honest, and sometimes humorous, story.

While navigating adolescence as an immigrant in Canada and Boston, Tran is constantly plagued with the voice of his father and must ultimately choose how to be an American citizen and his own person. Do you accept the stereotypical life of an immigrant, or find your own way on your own terms?

Revenge, responsibility, honor, love, and tradition drive the decisions of Tran’s life. From a young child who is told to see the Viet Cong as “teachers” to living in Boston and joining the ranks of an Italian gang to a teenager who must figure out the medium between the two extremes of his father’s voice and his own journey as an American and a human being, we see the different experiences that influenced this man.

The underlying theme of the entire performance is coming to grips with shadows. As humans, we all navigate our way through life while struggling with inner demons. His father’s description of the day he was born—April 20, 1975—as a “curse” leads to the events that unfold throughout the story. Events of abuse, death and loss are apparent, but even in the midst of the darkness, there are a few glimpses of light.

We can figure out what happens based on Tran’s current work, but the road to get there is the most fascinating. At first, I wondered if it would culminate in the latest years of his life, but the performance ends with his decision. Instead of telling us what we already know of his later life, Tran and Egan have crafted the story that deserves to be told.

"Uncle Ho to Uncle Sam" gives insight into the struggle of being an immigrant trying to fit in and claim the American dream: success, money and freedom. Many along Tran’s journey warned him of the difficulty of fitting in and about the existence of two races: Caucasian and everyone else. Guiding us through the generational journey of his life up until now, Tran lets us into his life with this powerful performance and encourages us to rethink our own decisions.

"Uncle Ho to Uncle Sam" is playing through October 6 at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (9820 Washington Blvd, Culver City). Tickets are $20-$25. For more information visit CenterTheatreGroup.org.

More coverage of the Radar L.A. Festival 2013 can be found here.

Contact Contribuiting Writer Stefanie here or follow her on Twitter.



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