Fringe review: ‘Reincarnation Soup,’ Viet Nguyen, Orlando
By Elizabeth Maupin
Myth and culture that are strange to most of us make up the meat of Reincarnation Soup, Viet Nguyen’s gorgeous homage to his ancestral Vietnam. In this solo show, an entire stage full of people wait in a sort of purgatory between birth and death – or reincarnation – and each tells of his or her life, of disappointments and of hopes.
Of course Nguyen plays every character here – the young army recruit, the suicidal clown, the child in a game of shoot-‘em-up, the smarmy reality-TV host, the prisoner who has just moved from settlement camp to a different form of incarceration. Each character is affecting in his or her way, but perhaps the most moving is the woman who tried to escape on a boat but lost her husband in the process. Musical-theater fans might recognize in one character an older version of Kim in Miss Saigon, but even this woman with a history, so to speak, fits seamlessly into the queue of troubled souls.
Nguyen (an Orlando actor who has performed at Mad Cow Theatre and Seminole State College and in the 2009 Fringe’s wonderful Elegies) does not change his costume or his manner to shift from man to woman, but each character is distinct. You’re left with a feeling of sorrow but also one of riches – of a people and a country that are troubled but also strong and proud. Reincarnation Soup is a small show that will stay with you. It deserves to be seen – and celebrated.
Remaining performances: 11 p.m. Wednesday 5/26, 5:30 p.m. Thursday 5/27, 9:25 p.m. Friday 5/28. Red venue.