Monster

Monster
A Play by Derek Nguyen
Productions: East West Players (LA), Pan Asian Repertory Theater (NYC)
Workshops & Readings: New Work Now! at the Public Theater (NYC), The Soho Theatre (London), Theater of the First Amendment (Fairfax, VA), Second Generation Productions at New York Theatre Workshop
2003 Edgar Allen Poe Award nomination for Best Play
Film adaptation developed at Sundance Film Institute’s Screenwriters Lab

A Vietnamese American detective investigates the disappearance of a Vietnamese high school student, on the heels of a hate crime…but the monster he finds may change him forever.

In the desert town outside of Los Angeles, a young Vietnamese boy is found beaten by a baseball bat at a public park near Sun Valley High School. The suspect, fifteen-year-old Jonny Bonnard, was reported missing since the discovery of the brutal crime. After two weeks of FBI investigation leading to no recovery of Jonny, Flora Bonnard hires private detective Tang Tran to find her missing son. Flora tells Tran of Jonny’s chronic bouts of depression and his history of mysterious disappearances after her divorce from her ex-veteren husband, Wray. Furthermore, Tran discovers that—like himself—Jonny Bonnard is a Vietnamese adoptee. Jonny was an orphan salvaged from the Fall of Saigon in a U.S. rescue mission called Operation Baby Lift in 1975. Tran begins his investigation and finds that the affluent community of Sun Valley has experienced radical changes in the town’s racial dynamic in recent years. A recent influx of immigrants has spawn gang-related conflicts among teens, the proliferation of graffiti and an increase in city violence.

“One of the most stunningly and viscerally disturbing pieces of theatre this reviewer has seen on any stage. Time, reality, objectivity, the fourth wall, and critical judgment are totally obliterated as pure emotion, onstage and off, takes over, leaving the audience breathless and wrung out… a smash, a play for the ages.”

–  Madeleine Shaner, Backstage West, 2002

“Monster begins as a contemporary noir narrative but ends as something quite different–a subtly spooky script that casts aside realism to become a poignant reflection on the haunted psychological journey faced by Vietnamese Americans and other veterans of America’s blighted experiences in Vietnam.

– Don Shirley, The Los Angeles Times, 2002