What it's about.
During the last leg of the Vietnam War, seventeen year old Kim - having lost both her parents - is taken by a sleazy bar owner named the Engineer and is forced to work as a dancer/prostitute. There, she meets an American soldier named Chris and they fall in love. With the fall of Saigon, they are forced apart and Kim spends three years on a journey to America to find the man she loves and the father of her son.
What I experienced.
My heart, mind and soul was not at all ready for this show. With smuggled in peanut M&M's and gummy bears in my lap, I didn't know the ride I was about to be on for 2 hours and 35 minutes.
Getting to the theatre on a Friday night was surprisingly painless. I managed to get to Times Square early enough to not rush (GOOD JOB CLARKE), to take some Boomerangs for the 'Gram and meet up with Tom, a guy from TDF who would be giving me my ticket.
I was transported to Vietnam during the war. I often say how I don't go into shows with any expectations and that's true. And this case was no different. So, when the curtain went up and I saw half naked women dancing provocatively in a bar, I thought to myself "what am I about to watch exactly?!"
Now, what I am about to say might get some tomatoes thrown my way and I can't say I'd blame you. But, Kim and Chris falling in love, at first, just didn't do it for me. First of all, I've read more than enough romance novels and watched my fair share of Rom-Coms to know Insta-Love when I see it. And this was by far the strangest batch of Insta-Love I had ever seen. By definition, 'Insta-Love' is an acronym for 'Instant Love', as in too damn soon for you two to meet, sleep together and then fall head over heels in love. The romantic in me is actually cringing right now but, it's just like that sometimes.
And then shit hit the fan and my entire perspective changed. Yeah, I know. How shady of me!
Once Kim and Chris were forced to separate, I started to understand the romance a little better and was able to see it past face value. Kim is super young and has literally no one besides her psycho cousin who is supposed to have dibs on her (creepy and also why must love triangles ALWAYS exist?!) and the Engineer who would sell her for a nickel if it meant he'd get to go to America. And Chris is a soft soldier who was drafted into the war so he doesn't really have the heart to be there. Meeting Kim was the only good thing he's been able to encounter since being in the war. So I totally get the appeal. Plus, I'd be totally lying if I said those duets and make out scenes didn't excite the romantic in me. I'm allowed to change my mind half way, right? Let's just go with it.
Finding out that Kim and Chris had a three year old son and watching Kim journey to America with the Engineer so that Chris could meet him almost broke me. By this point, Kim is only twenty years old and is left behind by the only man she's ever loved. In this three year period, she had to face guilt, shame and abandonment while still doing her best to keep her son and her love for Chris alive. I couldn't shake the feeling I had that Kim is not really given a sense of individual identity but given the context, it totally makes sense. And given what she endures, it's hard to ignore her strength. Talk about a strong woman!!!
And then the ending happens. And by this point, I'm shook. In a quiet theatre, I actually let out a very loud "OH SHIT!" that was not meant to be audible. I won't spoil it for you. But I will say that what Kim endures throughout this entire show tells me more about the love between a mother and her child than any romantic relationship I've ever seen. This is one of the most gut-wrenching, painful and beautifully tragic love stories I've ever seen and I had no idea I would leave the theatre totally destroyed. I actually felt like I left my heart in my seat as I walked to the subway that night.
P.S. Can we take a second to appreciate the amazingness that is the Engineer!? What a sleaze! But he provides all of the comic relief for the show and despite how disgustingly awful and selfish he is, I found myself actually rooting for him. Yeah yeah, don't you dare judge me!
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