Monday, January 23, 2012

Review: (Toronto) Kim's Convenience

Jean Yoon & Paul Sun-Hyung Lee (Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)

Soulpepper draws from the Academy for Kim
Waiting pays off
by Beat Rice
I cannot recall the last time I was this excited to see a play. While I was in the house I noticed I was sitting forward on the edge of my seat. Maybe it’s the fact that I lined up for 2 hours in the sun for the same play during the Fringe festival this Summer and still did not get in to see it. But the last several months have been worth the wait. Ins Choi’s fully realized production tells a story of the Kims; a Korean-Canadian family living in Toronto. Appa, or Mr. Kim, works and owns a convenience store in Regent Park. I don’t want to give away the story but if family and Toronto have a place in your heart, and you want to see something funny and touching, you must see Kim’s Convenience. 
All Appa wants is the best for his children and his family. His story is one that many immigrants in Canada share.

The 2012 Soulpepper season opener is one where the Soulpepper’s Academy Alumni shine. Weyni Mengesha directs, Ins Choi acts (and is our playwright of course), Lorenzo Savoini lights, and Ken Mackenzie set designs. All the elements work so well together that one truly feels like they are inside the store, peeking in on this private world that is also a public place. 
Ken Mackenzie’s set is a perfect representation of an independently run convenience store. From the linoleum floor and fluorescent lights, to the minute details like the Interac sticker on the grimy door and the flag of South Korea on the wall. It creates a truly believable world of Mr. Kim’s life in Canada. The little store is more than just a convenience store for Appa. It is his way of making a life for his family, and his way of contributing to his neighbourhood.
One of the most wonderful things about the play is that it takes place in Toronto in the present time. Anyone who is familiar with the current development of condos in the city, or anyone who has driven down Dundas East, is aware of the re-haul of Regent Park, and the pros and cons it presents. The sense and pride of Community is strong, and is something that Appa holds onto. Paul Sun-Hyung Lee plays the temperamental, hilarious, and caring Appa. All of the actors were fabulous in their roles but Appa is the heart of this play. Lee makes you fall completely in love with the character. All Appa wants is the best for his children and his family. His story is one that many immigrants in Canada share. It is so much fun to watch how he thinks, about people, about family, how he judges people, how he expresses love, and especially how he gets answers out of others. He will make you laugh, and he will make you cry.  
I hope to see more theatre like this in Toronto. Plays that tell universal stories but are also distinctly Canadian are the ones that remain the most memorable. You don’t need fancy moving set elements or live music or projections. You don’t always need to try to be innovative. A strong story with real characters is all you need. 

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