Playwright Dustin Chinn explores the history of the popular dish, pho, and the issues of cultural borrowing in his new play. Credit: Aurora Theatre Company

Dustin Chinn’s Colonialism is Terrible, But Pho is Delicious begins performances Nov. 4 at Aurora Theatre Company. According to the Chinn, the play — winner of a prestigious Edgerton Foundation New Play Award — has its spiritual home in the Bay Area. 

Chinn took inspiration from two viral incidents around cultural appropriation and food: Chef Tyler Akin’s how-to video for Bon Appetit, “PSA: This is How You Should Be Eating Pho,” and a suggestion by Dan Pashman of the Sporkful on improving bibimbap with a bundt pan — after eating it only twice.

Chinn “followed the rabbit hole” and wrote “a triptych about the ownership and authorship of food, following the journey of Vietnamese noodle soup.” This biting comedy spans centuries, continents, and cultures in its three-part vignette structure that begins in 1880s Hanoi and ends in gentrified Brooklyn.

“Playwright Dustin Chinn explores questions of authenticity and cultural appropriation with great insight and abundant humor,” said Josh Costello, Aurora Theatre Company’s artistic director. “We’re honored to present the world premiere of this award-winning new play that puts delicious food and expert cooking at center stage.” 

Oanh Nguyen, director. Credit: Aurora Theatre Company

Oanh Nguyen directs the play and is the artistic director of Chance Theater in Anaheim. 

“As a South Vietnamese refugee working in the American theater, I’m thrilled to be directing a new play that centers the experiences on the Vietnamese characters while exploring the history of a soup that is dear to my heart and childhood,” Nguyen said. “I’m so grateful to my longtime friend and colleague, Josh Costello, for introducing me to this play and Dustin.”

Chinn is an NYC-based Seattle native who has developed work with Ars Nova’s Play Group, Ensemble Studio Theatre, A.C.T.’s New Strands Festival, the University of Washington via a Mellon Creative Fellowship, UC Berkeley, SPACE on Ryder Farm, UMass at Amherst New Play Lab, and Vampire Cowboys.

Chinn is a proud product of the Ma-Yi Writers Lab, whose alumni include the Bay Area’s own Lauren Yee. Chinn is especially grateful to Madeleine Oldham for giving his idea its first development opportunity at the Ground Floor at Berkeley Rep. 

Mina Morita, artistic director of Crowded Fire Theater in San Francisco called the play,  “incisive, hilariously spiky, and delectable.” 

Colonialism is Terrible, But Pho is Delicious, Aurora Theatre Company. Nov. 4-Dec. 4. Information and tickets.

Aurora Theatre Company will host a special community AAPI Night (all are welcome), with a special discount AAPI30 and featuring AAPI Youth Rising, Eastwind Books, and other special guests. The pre-show reception starts at 7 p.m. A post-show discussion will follow the play.

Also, Pho Tasty, at 2101 Milvia St., has a special offer for Aurora patrons: show your ticket or stub to Colonialism is Terrible, But Pho is Delicious for 15% off the entire check. The offer ends Dec. 4 — one Aurora ticket discount per check.