Sometimes comedy needs a measure of heartbreak to make it perfect. Or maybe heartbreak needs comedy to make it bearable. Either way, comedian Franco Nguyen’s solo show, soaring in liquid skies, (FraGu Productions) playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival, is the perfect mixture of both.
Nguyen went with his mother on her first visit back to Vietnam in 25 years. He met his dying grandmother, his aunts and cousins, and explored the rural village where his mother grew up and where everyone recognized him right away as her son.
They went back again twice in the next couple of years: once to bury his grandmother, and once to pray for her. Over the course of these visits he got to know and understand his mother as a person rather than just as a parent.
Nguyen is a filmmaker as well as a comedian and film of the trip, complete with sub-titles, is projected on the back wall of the stage. The wall is brick which gives the film an interesting texture. It makes it a bit hard to see sometimes but I liked the overall effect.
His story zigs and zags between his childhood in Toronto and his trips to Vietnam with his mother.
Being the child of immigrants who don’t speak the language is difficult. Nguyen had to be his mother’s translator when he could barely read. His parents struggled to make ends meet. At one point they were evicted. His mother kicked his father out and Nguyen would get caught in the middle of their arguments.
A not so funny childhood, but he finds the humour in it so that as I was wiping away a few tears he was saying something funny and I was laughing again.
At the beginning of the show he talked about anti-Asian racism in a way that was definitely true and pointed out the idiocy of racism without being unkind. Not an easy thing to do.
I loved his presentation. No big theatrics, fairly straightforward, and after he delivered the punchline he looked at the audience with a wide-eyed stare and a small grin.
I loved soaring in liquid skies. it was funny, sad, and true. Nguyen is an incredibly talented performer and writer. Add it to your Fringe ‘must see’ list.
Buy your tickets now. Tonight’s performance was sold out. Granted, I think there were a lot of his friends there, but I think there’s going to be a lot of buzz about this one and Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace is a small venue so it’s probably going to keep selling out.
- soaring in liquid skies plays at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace. (16 Ryerson Ave.)
- Tickets are $12. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Fringe Club at Scadding Court, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible, with some tight cornering. Accessible seating is in the front row.
- Wednesday July 5th, 08:15 pm
- Friday July 7th, 04:45 pm
- Saturday July 8th, 05:00 pm
- Monday July 10th, 09:15 pm
- Tuesday July 11th, 03:15 pm
- Wednesday July 12th, 10:00 pm
- Friday July 14th, 01:45 pm
- Sunday July 16th, 05:45 pm
Photo of Franco Nguyen and Dieu Thi Duong provided by company