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REVIEW: Dustin Chinn’s “Colonialism is Terrible, But Pho is Delicious”–

Updated: Feb 25, 2021

A collaborative livestream staged reading between Chance Theater and Berkeley’s Aurora Theatre Company.

The show is being directed by Chance Theater's Artistic Director Oanh Nguyen and will have one performance on Saturday, February 13th at 5:00 p.m.

This new play will be presented as a one-time-only livestream reading, and is part of the On The Radar (OTR) New Works Program that aims to support the creation of diverse new stories by emerging U.S. playwrights.

It’s an exploration of historic and modern colonialism, appropriation, appreciation, and tradition through pho–a wonderful three-course play that satisfies not only the gourmet gastronome, but the history buff and the political junkie as well.

Dustin Chinn’s "Colonialism is Terrible, But Pho is Delicious" took its inspiration from two viral incidents around cultural appropriation and food. One, when Chef Tyler Akin did a how-to video for Bon Appetit, “PSA: This is How You Should Be Eating Pho,” and two, Dan Pashman of The Sporkful suggested you could improve bibimbap using a bundt pan. Chinn says he immediately “followed the rabbit hole” and wrote “Colonialism” dubbing the play as a triptych about the ownership and authorship of food following the journey of Vietnamese noodle soup.

Pictured L to R: Trieu Tran, Elissa Beth Stebbins, Joseph Patrick O'Malley, Celeste Den

This dark comedy spans centuries, continents, and cultures in its three-part vignette structure. Beginning in 1880s Hanoi, the capital city of 19th-century French Indochina, where a Vietnamese cook finds herself in the kitchen of aristocratic French settlers. Then 1999, a century later, in Ho Chi Minh City, where American diners get their first taste of the local cuisine. Then finally, a present-day, gentrifying Brooklyn, where the simmering argument around culture, ownership, and authenticity come to a roaring boil.

This OTR live stream reading stars Celeste Den (Broadway: “M. Butterfly;” TV/Film: “WHAT/IF,” “The Blacklist”), Elissa Beth Stebbins (Theater: “Becky Nurse,” “Kings”), Trieu Tran (Theater: “Equus;” TV/Film: “Altered Carbon,” “Tropic Thunder”), and Joseph Patrick O’Malley (Theater: “MacBeth,” “Spamalot!”) and directed by Chance Theater’s Executive Artistic Director Oanh Nguyen (Chance: “Skylight,” “Big Fish”). Quy Ton is Stage Manager and James McHale is OTR Producing Associate.

Chris Daniels

Arts & Entertainment Reviewer

The Show Report


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