If you like Fringe for storytelling shows, you could do far worse than Threads for a surprisingly sweeping narrative.
In this one-woman show Tonya Jone Miller dives into her own family history and plays her mother, an American from Indiana who arrived in Vietnam in 1968 to teach English, and how her relationships and experiences in that country shaped her life as it was being torn apart by civil war. She faces the aching heartbreak of caring for orphans who will probably die before they are adopted, aerial bombardment of the city while she teaches class, and a death-defying escape from the country shortly before the fall of Saigon in 1975 to North Vietnamese forces – while 8 ½ months pregnant. A few other narrative strands wind through the story, such as her brother’s deployment to fight the Viet Cong and subsequent declining health, and her relationship with her first husband that led to her meeting her second.
Miller’s performance is captivating – all she has are two suitcases and an empty stage, and it doesn’t take long before you forget the empty stage. While the non-linear organization of the story might benefit from some minor tweaking, the content itself is immediately gripping. At the end, when Miller brings the story back to the very first moment when her mother’s path in life turned toward Southeast Asia, the real theme – that incredible stories like these can happen and have happened to ordinary people who don’t always get to tell others about it – strikes home with powerful force. That Miller only had to reach back one generation in her family history to find such rich material for storytelling speaks to the unknown romantic heroes and heroines that masquerade as normal people like you or me.
For an engaging, cinematic story that at times verges on the epic, Threads has got to be on your list.
Written and Performed by Tonya Jone Miller
Running Time: 60 minutes
Playing at Academic Hall
Tuesday June 23 8:00 pm
Wednesday June 24 11:00 pm
Saturday June 27 3:00 pm
Sunday June 28 6:00 pm