Solo show about the loss of an 11-year-old girl’s mother comes to video on demand for a limited time

Susan Lieu playing herself in "140 LBS: How Beauty Killed My Mother."
(Courtesy of Jenny Crooks)

Susan Lieu’s solo show “140LBS: How Beauty Killed My Mother” is hitting screens at home for free from June 11 to 14.

The autobiographical 65-minute performance recounts how Lieu’s mother, Jennifer Ha, went in for plastic surgery and died mid-procedure from loss of oxygen to her brain. Lieu was 11 years old. The show, in which she plays 15 characters, deals with grief, Vietnamese feminine beauty and medical accountability.

In 2019, Lieu used the profits from nine sold-out shows in Seattle and San Francisco to launch a tour across major U.S. cities with Vietnamese populations.

Prior to a performance in Westminster, she told TimesOC that meeting audience members after the show felt like a combination of a wedding and a funeral.

“I feel more alive than I’ve ever felt. I’ve worked harder than I’ve ever worked, but at least I know that the work I’m doing is net positive,” Lieu said.

The virtual screening, funded by the Orange County Health Care Agency, is hosted by the Laguna Playhouse as a part of its new outreach program, Our Stories, focused on using theater to strengthen health, well-being and community connection.

“One of the things that we’re trying to do is reach out to 16- to 25-year-olds. The story involves Lieu as a young adult, going back and trying to discover what happens surrounding the death of her mother,” Dylan Russell, the theater’s director of education and outreach, said. “We really wanted to bring forward something where we could show a production that exemplified [dealing with grief]. Susan also does a lot of work around performance and writing as a healing process.”

On Friday at 3 p.m. on Laguna Playhouse’s Facebook Live, Lieu will be in conversation with Nancy Tang, an Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance clinician and Y Nguyen, a health educator from Connect OC.

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