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The Daily Tar Heel

'Uncle Ho to Uncle Sam' a great start to PlayMakers season

<p>Trieu Tran in Uncle Ho to Uncle Sam. Courtesy of Center Theatre Group. Photo by Craig Schwartz.</p>
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Trieu Tran in Uncle Ho to Uncle Sam. Courtesy of Center Theatre Group. Photo by Craig Schwartz.

4 stars

The opening night performance of "Uncle Ho to Uncle Sam" left the audience awestruck as writer and sole actor Trieu Tran’s life story spilled across the stage.

Tran’s raw and riveting performance led the audience through his extraordinary journey from war-torn Vietnam, through Canada, Thailand and, finally, to America. The journey began with Tran wrapped in a Vietnamese flag, its vibrant yellow and red colors striking against the pure black back drop, and effectively setting the simple yet powerful tone for the rest of his performance.

One of the most amazing aspects of Tran’s performance was his unwavering energy throughout the nearly two-hours of nonstop drama. His hands shook with emotion, and his voice and face depicted raw feelings within as he moved fluidly and constantly about the stage. Almost equally as amazing as Tran’s energy level and authenticity was the ability of this single individual to captivate a theater full of people.

The bluntness and honesty of both Tran’s writing and performance offered an unusual authenticity to the play, which added to the realization of the weight, and consequential shock, of his experiences. 

However, Tran delicately balanced heavy themes with interspersed moments of humor and positivity, creating an emotional balance within the show. Audience members laughed heartily at several well-placed jokes, and gasped in horror at some of the atrocities Tran endured.

Throughout the entire piece, Trans used a minimal set, including four chairs, to represent multiple objects throughout the show as his presence and the story itself offered more than enough visualization and emotion to carry the piece. The simplicity of the atmosphere allowed his personal tale to take front and center, and the story was complemented by timely sound effects and clever musical choices.

Overall, the piece came together to create the uniquely dark yet positive story of a horrific and extraordinary journey, ending on a positive note: Tran called on the audience to lose their borders and unite as humans.

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