Author: Rob Reese
Description: This ripe, ribald parody of reality television puts a group of eager contestants in the middle of the War in Vietnam, where they vie for a $1 million grand prize, if they survive.
First Produced: 2003
Date Added: 12/5/2011
Content Advisory: Includes obscenity, profanity, profundity, progeny, and pigeons
Keywords: Comedy · Satire/Parody · Pop Culture · Many Locations · Requires/Supports Sophisticated Multimedia/Technical Elements · Show Biz · Movies/Film/TV · Characters are Mostly Young Adults · War · Anti-War · Mostly Female Characters · Large Cast Size
1 Act, 80 Minutes
6 Females, 3 Males, 3 Gender Neutral
NOTE: Survivor: Vietnam is fully protected by copyright law and is subject to royalty. All inquiries concerning production, publication, reprinting or use of this play in any form should be addressed to Rochelle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Original Production Information
Survivor: Vietnam! was first presented by Amnesia Wars Productions on May 17, 2003, at the Peoples Improv Theater, New York City, with the following cast and credits:
Chorus Rob Reese
Voiceover Jason Evans
Kennedy Nitra Gutierrez
Mike Marcus Bonnée
Orf Daniel Berman
Darryl Darryl Reilly
Angela Angela DiGenaro
Erica Eric Brenner
Julia Julia Motyka
DJ Jason Evans
With understudies and replacements as follows:
Chorus Jason Hays
Voiceover Chris Orf, Marcus Bonnée, Rob Reese
Orf Chris Orf
Erica Chris Orf
Julia Shelly Stover
DJ Jennifer Burland
Director: Rob Reese
Sound Design: Jason Evans
Stage Manager: Jennifer Burland
Review by Martin Denton
Rob Reese—actor, writer, director, improv teacher, and world traveler—can now add Ultimate Capitalist to his impressive curriculum vitae. In Survivor: Vietnam!, his new parody of a certain very popular reality TV show, now running late nights at People's Improv Theatre, he gives the world the consumer product that it's been waiting for. It's called "Wipe 'N Go, the completely disposable two step cleaning system": all you need to do is open the package and then throw it away and you're done (see, two steps).
I give away just this one of Reese's dead-on satirical barbs to show you how on-target his writing is. In two hilarious, brilliantly-crafted "commercials," Reese both deconstructs and fires cautionary warning shots at the state of marketing (and consumer gullibility) in America today (he presses some other buttons as well). Performed simply at two microphones by Reese and Jason Evans, they're neat gems of comic wisdom, all by themselves worth the price of admission to this subversive little show.
Which is not to imply that the rest of Survivor: Vietnam! isn't worth your time. It is, but as sometimes happens in the world of TV, the commercials really are the best part. The premise of Survivor: Vietnam! is that a desperate network has set its newest reality show in the midst of the Vietnam War. Never mind the fact that this war ended some thirty years ago; the media honchos have thoughtfully recreated it, bombing raids and all. Oh, but this time a lot of the Viet Cong are portrayed by beautiful models in skimpy bathing suits.
Reese gives us six rather typical contestants to rough it through combat for a chance at a multi-million dollar prize. There's ditzy vegan Julia (Julia Motyka), naive student Mike (Marcus Bonnée), vaguely lascivious warrior Orf (Daniel Berman), militant feminist Erica (Eric Brenner, in extremely unconvincing drag), and a married couple, controlling Angela (Angela DiGenarro) and her doormat of a husband, Darryl (Darryl Reilly). Egged on by annoyingly chipper host Kennedy-Johnson-Nixon (Nitra Guiterrez), they are made to play "games" like a version of Russian Roulette involving six beer cans (one of the cans has been pre-shaken so it will explode when smashed against someone's head). The women are also encouraged to lift their t-shirts frequently. It's just like TV.
Of course, even as his spot-on parody of this or that reality show goes its merry way, Reese has something a bit darker up his sleeve. Eventually, the remaining survivors find themselves up against authentic danger, perpetrated by an exec-gone-mad named Kurtz. They (and we) wind up in Conrad country, exploring the limits to man's capacity for exploitation and evil (or, more accurately, the apparent lack of such limits) as Survivor morphs into Apocalypse Now.
Not that things get too serious: the finale is a silly, slapstick combat-chase sequence that feels as much like Keystone Kops as anything; Reese's primary objective is to keep us laughing, and he succeeds. Especially with those two commercial interruptions.
The company is fearless and enthusiastic and maintain the requisite high energy level to put over the gags. The staging is simple and minimalist, as befits a director whose roots are in the world of improv; don't worry, you've seen enough of the kind of TV this show is parodying to fill in all the blanks in your mind's eye.
Survivor: Vietnam! runs Saturday nights at midnight, which is an appropriate hour for this kind of gleeful subversion. It's scheduled through May 31st only, but hopefully a longer life is in the cards.
review of the original production in 2003
Excerpt from Survivor: Vietnam
Whoooooooo! Word to your mother! I’m Kennedy Johnson-Nixon hosting “Empty-Vee’s Survivor: Vietnam!” Whoooooooo! Our “recruiters” have scoured the nation to draft our six sexy, hip contestants who must survive hardship, survive the elements, and survive each other. Oh, and they also have to survive live fire, booby traps, torture, and forced starvation. The sole survivor will be the recipient of one million dollars and will be slightly famous! Whoooooooo! Our contestants are hip, sexy, and willing to humiliate themselves just to be on TV! Whoooooooo! And did I mention sexy? Whoooooooo!
Kennedy says “whoo” again.
Whooooooo! Now we’re going to meet our first survivor: Mike is an “entertainer” from Fargo, North Dakota. Let’s take a peek at his audition tape!
(Sound effect: Whoosh!)
Screen graphics look like a web page; the survivor’s name, Mike, stretches across the top. Statistics cover the sidebars.
(Music: MIKE theme I—contemporary, vapid, boy band hit. “Factoids” are enthusiastically read almost simultaneously, creating a jumble of sound.)
Height: six feet, even.
Actually, six feet, one centimeter.
Weight: one hundred sixty-five pounds.
Two hundred pounds. Okay, one eighty-five.
Eyes: steel gray, the color of a cigarette case reflecting the bitter remembrance of a neglected morning.
Shirt: seventeen and a half.
Jacket: forty-two short.
Favorite food: bacon cheeseburgers.
Favorite band: Journey.
Favorite Journey song: “Don’t Stop Believin’”!
Favorite Two-Step Completely Disposable Cleaning System: Wipe-n-Go!
Special skill: making balloon animals.