Party Play: "Poor Yella Rednecks"

Beth Fhaner
 | Apr 09, 2019

The world premiere of Poor Yella Rednecks, the next chapter in playwright Qui Nguyen’s story about his parents’ immigration from Vietnam to the United States, opened to an enthusiastic First Night audience. Nguyen’s highly anticipated new work captivated the crowd right from the start and never let up, delivering two hours of raucous comedy, heartfelt performances, colorful characters, kung-fu, puppetry, projections and more.

Nguyen’s first chapter of the story, the award-winning Vietgone, was commissioned by SCR and had its world premiere here in 2015. With Poor Yella Rednecks—also an SCR commission—Nguyen continues his family’s hilarious, yet deeply moving take on the immigrant story. Set six years after Vietgone, the second chapter has married couple Tong and Quang building new lives in El Dorado, Arkansas, but nothing is easy in this foreign land.

Theatregoers showed their appreciation for Poor Yella Rednecks with generous applause, ​lots of laughter and an immediate standing ovation. Led by May Adrales’ expert direction, the entire ensemble created a truly memorable evening that transported First Night attendees to Arkansas in 2015 and 1981. The buzz was overwhelmingly favorable surrounding both the play and the performances of the talented cast: Tim Chiou, Samantha Quan, Maureen Sebastian, Paco Tolson and Eugene Young, with Quan, Sebastian and Tolson reprising their Vietgone roles.

Honorary Producers and First Night attendees Talya Nevo-Hacohen and Bill Schenker found the play to be highly entertaining.

“Poor Yella Rednecks is a brilliant play full of energy and surprises performed with grace and joy by an amazing cast,” they said. “A story of an immigrant family’s assimilation told by the playwright through the prism of a young boy’s imagination where mom is a martial arts warrior, dad is a bad-ass with a heart of gold, and the boy himself, played by a puppet, can fly like a superhero. Watching the performance, we cheered, laughed and cried for each of the characters, including the puppet, as they persevered to make a new life for themselves.”

Honorary Producers Marci Maietta Weinberg and William Weinberg were also in attendance on First Night and they greatly enjoyed seeing the play.

“Marci and I were so excited after we sat through the table read,” said William Weinberg. “Imagine our joy at discovering that the play had truly come alive on opening night. We were thrilled.”

Guests who attended the cast party in the Plaza Ballroom at The Westin South Coast Plaza, which was a co-sponsor of the event, were welcomed to the elegant space with beautiful floral arrangements consisting of white and yellow dahlias and yellow billy buttons, along with greenery such as Bells-of-Ireland and Amaranthus.

The celebratory fête featured an assortment of tantalizing bites including passed hors d’oeuvres such as veggie spring rolls and beef potstickers with dipping sauce. Partygoers also enjoyed a noodle station featuring flavorful options like rice noodle salad with sesame ginger chicken, Soba noodle salad with seared soy sauce tofu and spicy udon noodle salad with sweet chili sauce and mushrooms. For a sweet finish to the evening, guests indulged in a tempting array of scrumptious miniature desserts such as lemon bars, brownies, cheesecakes, tarts and eclairs.

The evening’s signature cocktail was dubbed “Vietgone—again”, a delicious take on a Cosmopolitan comprised of Tito’s Handmade Vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice and lime juice.

Guests lingered into the evening as much appreciation continued for the cast and creative team of Poor Yella Rednecks, an extremely funny, touching take on one family’s immigrant story—told with hip-hop style. All in attendance at Poor Yella Redneck’s First Night agreed—it was an exciting evening, indeed!

Learn more about Poor Yella Rednecks and buy tickets.