Written by Patrick Chavis
The Wayward Artist produced the world premiere production of Brackish at the Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana from August 26 – 28. Brackish lacks something substantial to tie the dramatic elements together, leaving the other elements undercooked and under-examined.
Brackish is a play about a Vietnamese family in modern-day Galveston, Texas. Sang Dao, played by Henry Vu, runs a Vietnamese Restaurant called Pho and Phish. Sang Do is getting older, and it’s unlikely he’ll receive help from his two daughters Linh (Claudia Nguyen) and Tuyet (Corey Linh). On the anniversary of their younger brother’s death, they must decide whether or not to keep the restaurant afloat or move on.
I’ve seen this story structure in other plays centering on what a specific place has to do with family or culture. It works, but it’s a little generic. The execution in this play is underwhelming and flat in its’ delivery of drama. The stakes in this story are generally low. There’s a bad thing that happens. It gets rectified quickly as best it could under the circumstances. In a way, it’s like a soap opera, focusing mainly on the drama. Unfortunately, the drama is lukewarm, and the actual message is muddy. If this was a pilot for a television show, it might hold up better. The audience would have more time to learn about the characters in future episodes. There are some excellent ideas in this play. The setting and experiences of a Vietnamese family in Texas are fertile ground for telling an intriguing story. There are some interesting plot lines, but they’re not presented strongly enough to make a full impact. There was a lot of background information dispensed throughout but very little actual movement of the plot.
From the wooden paneled floors to the plastic stools used for customers to sit on — this show had a wonderful set by scenic designer Avery Tang that helped create the setting for the restaurant and the Texan atmosphere.
The acting was pretty straightforward, and there were a few comedic moments. The actors’ performances were quite good. I think the direction and script choices limited their options.
Khoi T Le (Quang) and Corey Linh (Tuyet) were the highlights of the production.
Brackish has great ideas and talented actors, but a lack of narrative focus and direction waters down much of the dramatic impact.