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American director to release thriller play in Ho Chi Minh City next week

Friday, February 13, 2015, 11:10 GMT+7
American director to release thriller play in Ho Chi Minh City next week
American director Aaron Toronto is pictured reading a Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.

An American who has called Ho Chi Minh City home over the past 11 years is poised to debut his purely Vietnamese thrilling play for the upcoming Tet (Lunar New Year) festival.

>> An audio version of the story is available here 

Aaron Toronto, 38, who has served as the deputy director for several local blockbusters and co-directed some classic foreign plays, will introduce his new play with a purely Vietnamese storyline, The Thao va Van Hoa (Sports and Culture) newswire, an affiliate of the Vietnam News Agency, reported Thursday. The play, titled “Canh Mau” (Bloody Soup), will be staged at Kich Sai Gon Stage, at 59 Pasteur in District 1, starting Monday next week, or three days from Tet.

Tet begins on February 19 this year and festive activity lingers on for around one week after that.

The play was jointly written by Toronto and his wife – local actress Nha Uyen – and directed by himself.

Inspired by an old Japanese tale, “Canh Mau” is set during the so-called “Trinh-Nguyen War” around the 17th and 18th centuries, in which the Trinh Lords and Le Kings, who played a nominal role in the north, vied for power with the Nguyen Lords in the south, Toronto said.

The play delves into the gap between the affluent and the poor and revolves around an underprivileged couple, who is under suppression for a long overdue debt.

A woman named Nguyen then shows up, relieving their debts and coercing the husband into leaving his wife and working as domestic help in her home.

Nguyen is widely feared as she is rumored to be a blood sucker.

Toronto promised the play will be packed with spine-tingling details as well as heart-felt messages.

He has shuttled between Vietnam and the U.S., and has studied Vietnamese since he was 18 years old.

He told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper last year that he once asked one of his Vietnamese friends how to say “hop dong” (contract) in English.

It was not a joke; Toronto actually forgot the word.

He explained that after 10 years of living in Ho Chi Minh City and working various filmmaking jobs, there are times when he completely forgets common English words.

However, Toronto told The Thao va Van Hoa that only after he married a Vietnamese woman was he confident enough about his language command and the country’s culture to compose a plot in Vietnamese.

He and his wife wrote the script for “Ngay Nay Ngay Nay” (The Lost Dragon), which hit local screens last week and is expected to be one of this year’s Tet hits.

The couple is also working on a script for a television drama.

Toronto staged six English classic plays in the city from 2011 to 2014.

He said “Canh Mau” is a turning point for him to totally engage in Vietnamese culture and showbiz.

The director is also expectant that his new play will have a longer appeal among local audiences, as his previous English classic plays were poorly watched after four or five sessions.

Toronto has worked as a deputy director for local hits such as “Chuyen Tinh Xa Xu” (Passport to Love); “De Mai Tinh” (Fool For Love); as well as this Tet’s comedy titled “Trung So,” which were directed by much-loved expat Vietnamese directors Victor Vu, Charlie Nguyen and Dustin Nguyen respectively. 

He has also starred in about seven local TV dramas and joined several reality shows as both a host and contestant.

The classic English plays he co-directed between 2011 and 2014 include “The Last 5 Years,” “The Importance of Being Earnest,” “Le Petit Prince” (The Small Prince), and “Dangerous Liaisons.”

He also plans to stage a series of mini-plays scripted by revered American playwright and author Tennessee Williams in Ho Chi Minh City in the time to come.

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