Few Americans know a lot about Laos and Laotian-Americans, ignorance addressed in Leilani Chan and Ova Saopeng's charming and edifying Refugee Nation. Directed by Armando Molina and Rena Heinrich, with the participation of Litdet Viravong, this three-performer piece informs about the people of Laos while honing in on the experience of Laotian refugees and their American-born children.
The grim backdrop of these stories makes one anticipate a dark narrative. Instead, the writers approach their material wryly, intent on portraying humanity's comic foibles as much as its tragic desperation.
One sketch features Viravong, in hilarious drag, as a shallow, 17-year-old beauty contestant flashing “Choose me!” smiles while speaking about her mom's struggle to feed their family. Another, more visceral sketch depicts a hapless victim of the civil war (Saopeng) jailed and tormented by the army's youthful soldiers.
My favorite is a monologue by an immigrant mom (Chan) that intersperses her numerous opinions about Texas, Los Angeles and the TV show Survivor with a description of her problems with her wayward, now-incarcerated son. Chan, who brings an endearing ingenuousness to all her characters, is especially delightful to watch.
Kimo Keoke's fight choreography and Kedar Lawrence's videography add style and flavor, respectively.

Thursdays-Sundays. Starts: June 2. Continues through June 24, 2012

LA Weekly