Tinh Ruot Thit
nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
August 15, 2004
It’s so easy to forget where we come from and those who have come before us. We look at ourselves in the mirror everyday and forget that our nose has been passed down for many generations. What is it about our heritage that makes us a unique part of an assimilating society? Playwright/director Giang Pham has put some thought into this subject in her debut one-woman show, Tinh Ruot Thit. (Translates as “kinsmen,” or “kinfolk” as I would put it.)
The play tells us a few pinnacle stories in the lives of four Vietnamese women of the same family. We hear a story told entirely in Vietnamese by the grandmother and matriarch of the family about her childhood training as a healer and a good reason not to eat pork ever again. (There’s a translation in the program.) Her eldest daughter and mother of the youngest character in the play speaks with a thick accent of her scandalous divorce and how she likes to say sorry with food. The mother’s sister opens the show with a moving monologue that stabs into the emotional meat of the play. At first, I thought Giang would have nowhere to go from this peak but she holds the intensity to the climatic ending monologue given by the youngest of the women, who is struggling to find her identity.
Overall, I was impressed with Giang’s acting. She creates the four distinct characters using her voice and body with ease and confidence. I feel the piece could have benefited from a little direction. It’s tough to direct yourself in a one-person show. For example, a director may have been able to help smooth over the transitions between characters, and may have helped Giang walk the fine line between direct audience address and soliloquy.
Giang’s writing is wonderful. I was intrigued by her characters and their stories. But I wanted more. The play, at less than 30 minutes, merely whet my appetite. I found myself reluctant to start clapping because I was hoping she would return to the stage with more. Her performance and storytelling abilities are so compelling that I thought for a moment that if I sat there long enough maybe she’d do it again. But alas, only one performance per show. This could be a problem for some people. I feel the show is worthwhile, but is it worth a full price ticket? I leave that up to you. In my opinion, it’s always worth it to see a young actor with such amazing commitment to her roles and, through these roles, to her heritage as well. Tinh Ruot Thit possesses value beyond the measure of money.