Read more thoughts on theater at instagram.com/krista.reviews. Reprinted by kind permission.
In Search of the Kitchen Gods, from 1812 Productions, is a new solo show by Bi Jean Ngo directed by Makoto Hirano. Ngo’s warm personality, versatile acting skills, and ability to co-create a welcoming atmosphere with the audience make this an experience you cannot miss.
Ngo mixes mediums—including original songs, performance art, shadow puppets, and storytelling, all while cooking a meal. Hirano and Ngo seamlessly integrate all of these seemingly disparate elements into a cohesive whole, while keeping the pacing brisk and the audience engaged. Ngo uses props to great effect to quickly and hilariously transform herself—using two parts of a plant to evoke the bushy eyebrows and mustache of a Vietnamese elder, using glasses to evoke her father, and using a succulent on her head to evoke a nosy neighbor peeking through the bushes.
While Ngo keeps you laughing through the show, there are poignant moments of self-discovery, grief, and heartbreak. These moments of vulnerability make the show deeply relatable. Ngo shares her parent’s love story, her family’s immigration story, the struggles to make it in America, stories from her childhood, and the journey of pursuing acting (despite what her Vietnamese Aunties may have thought of that career choice). Ngo’s solo show is both deeply personal, yet universal.
Everyone is welcome in Bi’s Vietnamese kitchen and at her show. I wholeheartedly recommend this play, especially to my Asian, immigrant, and BIPOC kin.
[1812 Productioins at the Adrienne Theatre, 2030 Sansom St.] June 8-26, 2022;