Bi Jean Ngo’s In Search of the Kitchen Gods connects to audiences through food and storytelling

-Brenda Hillegas

I often associate theatre with food. Where am I going to grab dinner before a show? What are some great happy hours nearby? Do I have time to get ice cream afterwards without missing the bus home?

In Search of the Kitchen Gods, from 1812 Productions, is Bi Jean Ngo’s unique solo show that combines performance art, storytelling, cooking in real time (Theatre Exile smelled amazing) and a crash course in Vietnamese culture. And it’s a must-see before it closes on June 26th.

When you walk into the theatre, you’ll be greeted by Ngo as she preps her stage kitchen. You’re invited to sit down, listen and learn as she creates a traditional Vietnamese dish in front of you. The 75-minute show takes us through Ngo’s childhood, we learn how her parents met and why they had to move to America. We learn about love and food and the Kitchen Gods who watch over us (they’re real!). And there are a couple funny original songs, a floating guitar, and some cool quick-change costumes to boot! What more could you want? Except maybe a taste of what’s cooking on stage. Don’t worry, you’ll have that opportunity.

Ngo’s show is filled with warmth and comfort. It’s heartwarming and hopeful. It’s the late night snack as you’re cuddled up with a blanket on the couch. I hope this story is told over and over, in many more theatres throughout the years. In Search of the Kitchen Gods shows the importance of bringing people together through food- something we all already know to be true, but a reminder is always appreciated.

Another reason why this show is so special- Ngo began to develop this story after taking part in a residency with 1812’s Jilline Ringle Solo Performance Program. This program is named in honor of performer who passed away in 2005 at the age of 40. It’s dedicated to supporting the creation, development and production of work by female solo artists across a variety of disciplines. You can find more info on the program here.

I didn’t actually go out to a restaurant or amazing happy hour before heading to Theatre Exile. Instead, my friend and I picked up fresh made sandwiches and sat in the park across from the theatre. I recommend you do the same.

Get tickets to In Search of the Kitchen Gods here.

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