Written by 11:17 pm Anaheim, Review, The Chance Theater, Theater, Uncategorized

Phở Runs Deep: Colonialism is Terrible, But Phở is Delicious @ Chance Theater – Review

Photo by Doug Catiller, True Image Studio.

Written by Patrick Chavis

Pho is a delicious Vietnamese noodle dish I have often heard put in competition with Japanese ramen, probably because they’re both noodle dishes in a rich broth. But there’s no reason to put these dishes in competition. They are both so different and have a depth of flavor all their own. In the Rolling World Premiere of  Colonialism is Terrible But Pho is Delicious, we are taken on a food journey from 1800s French Indo-China to the present day, and we see how colonialism has affected the food, culture, and people of Vietnam.


Dustin H. Chin has penned a great comedic script with a powerful message about how history matters and influences the present. To be blind to history is to be ignorant, but the script makes another point about being tied down by tradition. We also can miss growth since things are constantly evolving. The play stays focused on Pho, the culture around Pho, and the colonial, capitalistic, and nationalistic interests that mold us.

There are many laughs to be had in this one, but because we change characters and storylines so often, it can feel like we only get half of the story in each time jump. In the 1800s section, I enjoyed the character of Thuy, played by Hannah Mariah, so much. She’s a proud Vietnamese chef who wants to show off her regional Vietnamese cuisine but is looked down on. When they left that time, I was hoping they’d go back, but they never do because that’s not the point of the play. While that makes sense and the objective of the scene was successful, you are left wanting something more dramatic to tie these characters together. I guess I’m saying I wanted some hoisin in my pho. You’ll get the reference if and when you see this show.


The set designer Avery Tang went with a stylish and functional open design. It allowed the actors to move around freely on the set. It also provided quick access for making necessary set changes during the performance. At times the spaciousness of the set, combined with the fact there are only four characters in the show, made for some awkward spacing, but it’s mostly fixed with good blocking from the actors. The funny projection by Tang bookending the various periods makes a wonderful set design even more wonderful.


The acting in this show was exceptional. This ensemble was exceptional. There’s a fluidness to the characters’ interactions that draws you in. Each character Hannah Mariah inhabited felt new and interesting. Less mental work occurs when you have strong direction, as you have in this production. As an audience member, you don’t have to fill in the blanks very much because the actors are directed so well; it’s clear. The near-perfect direction in this particular piece is limited only by the constraints of the script.

Dustin Vuong Nguyen and Chloe Gay Brewer provided solid support throughout.

Casey Long is hilarious as the chef in multiple time periods, a great example of energy and control on stage that reads authentic but hilarious. He finds the right balance.

Garden Grove has some of the best pho outside of Vietnam, which is mentioned in the show. Please don’t take my word for it; I’m not a food reviewer and have never been to Vietnam. This is what I’ve been told. That being said, I have had some excellent pho in the area. Maybe grab yourself a bowl after or before you see the show.

8.7 Overall
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Set & Design8.5
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Great Show! OCR Recommended!

March 31 – April 30, 2023

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