The 33rd annual Vietnamese Culture Night produced by the Vietnamese Student Union presents Unrequited: Đường Một Chiều, which translates to ‘one-way road’ or ‘one way traffic’. The show challenges the, often conservative, Vietnamese ideas of gender roles and perception of sexuality.
Opening scene: Daniel (right) is frustrated by his family’s constant nag of finding a
wife. His brother Justin (left) insists on helping accelerate the process.
The brothers are successful in finding a future wife (Thuy) for Daniel through an
online mail-order bride site in Vietnam.
Upon the mail-order bride’s arrival, Daniel makes quick work of proposing to Thuy.
There are no questions asked because both have hidden agendas.
Meanwhile, Daniel’s traditional, Catholic mother is praying that her son can
eventually find a girl. She is very persistent on having a daughter-in-law.
Daniel presents Thuy to his parents, and they are ecstatic of the new addition to the
While Thuy gets accustomed to her new home, Daniel does martial arts with his
close friend, Kat. The audience is introduced with a small glimpse of Daniel’s
feminine side by way of his lack in fighting skills.
Thuy seeks a job at Mary’s (Daniel’s confidante) marketing firm, where she is
introduced to Wes, the flamboyant secretary, whom Thuy looks at for guidance.
At home, Justin’s flirtatious girlfriend hits on Daniel, which spurs more hints at his
discomfort with the opposite sex.
Fast forward: Daniel lies to Thuy about being out with a buddy, when he’s really out
with Wes at Fierce, a gay club. There, Daniel is lured by another man.
After catching him at Fierce, Thuy confronts Daniel and his homosexuality in front
his mother. Daniel is instantly defended by his mother because she refuses to
attribute her son (of God) to homosexuality.
After brawl of words and slaps between Thuy and Daniel’s mom, Daniel reaches his
tipping point, “Mom, I’m gay.” This momentous scene leaves his parents speechless.
After processing what her son had admitted to, Daniel’s mother decided that she did
not want his sinful behavior in her Catholic household.
Back at work, Thuy is shunned by Mary and Wes for outing Daniel and ruining his
family. Thuy is puzzled that no one supports her, considering she was also cheated.
Justin tries to remind his parents that Daniel was still their son and he had worked
so hard to please them by becoming a thriving doctor.
Mary pays a visit to Daniel’s mother and confesses that she knew of Daniel’s
homosexuality all along because he always came over to vent his agony. Daniel’s
mother is astounded that this secret was kept away from her.
Daniel seeks comfort by hearing his two friends’ coming out stories. They assure
him that everything would get better, and life would resume better now that he was
lifted of a burdening secret.
Daniel’s father tries to reason with his mother in hopes of bringing his son back into
the family. She remains stern in her decision, and shows no intentions of acceptance.
Despite tension with his mother, Daniel finds acceptance and love from his father.
After Thuy’s suicide attempt, Daniel tries to make amends. They conclude that
they were both unhappy because they attempted to live a forged life: Daniel with
his homosexuality and Thuy with her gold digging agenda. Both lived life trying to
please their families but, in the end, forgot themselves.
Daniel’s mother performs a monologue dwelling on his childhood and trying to
make sense of where things turned for the worse. She can’t comprehend how his
Catholic upbringing resulted in homosexuality.
Daniel’s mother turns her back on her pleading son- a harsh reality for many queers.
At their departure, Thuy and Daniel agreed that they were destined to marry in
order to find their real identity. They both ended with someone new to confide in.
Follow up from the director, John Le:
The Vietnamese Culture Night was my chance to project the idea that we are the youth, brothers,
sisters, and children of the Vietnamese American community who all support one another
regardless of sexual preference.
I personally know how it feels to be a closeted male. Portraying Daniel came very naturally to
me. Even so, I knew if I advertised the culture night as having queer themes, the audience would
potentially come in with a negative predisposition. Thus, I let it be a secret so that the audience
could react naturally. From then, it was up to them to decide what stance they’d take after the
I wanted the audience, the majority of whom are conservative, to open their minds for just one
night. I wanted to challenge their ideas of gender roles and perception of sexuality. I also wanted
the queer/allies of the audience to keep on fighting the good fight and staying by each others
sides. It’s so important to have a strong support base to keep you going.
With regards to the ending, I don’t consider it a “non-happy ending” perse but rather a realistic
one. A non-happy ending sounds intentional and for the intensive purposes of being different. In
reality, things like this happen all the time. Daniel’s situation is one of the many possible extremes
that are a reality for queer folks.
Having the culture night occur on Martin Luther KIng Jr. Day resonates his dream
of tolerance and acceptance. That’s all I personally hope for one day.
Daniel’s Father-Kyle Nguyen
Daniel’s Mother-Jenny Bao Ngoc