Saturday, January 25, 2014

Review: (Ottawa) Kim's Convenience

Jean Yoon, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)
Father Knows Best (Korean Style)
by Jim Murchison

The set for Kim's Convenience is a very authentic looking convenience store. Designer Ken MacKenzie has quite meticulously placed all the details there from the aisles and the well stocked shelves, the overhanging fluorescent light boxes, the register and of course the open and closed sign hanging from the window by the door. The remount has been directed by Albert Schulz with original direction by Weyni Mengesha. What has been added or subtracted in  this production is not possible for me to determine, but the balance is good and the play has honesty and truth that captures the essence of family dynamic.
The patriarch proprietor Appa Kim is played with stoic assurance by Paul Sun-Hyung Lee. The comic interplay because of broken English and the steadfast determination to be right at all times is deftly played. It is clear that the audience relates to the father figure that believes any manner of doubt is weakness and tough love means aikido.

Grace Lynn Kung playing daughter Janet is delightful as the sassy 30-something daughter with a stubborn streak as strong as her father's. She has a great chemistry with Andre Sills who plays four characters very well. As Alex, he and Kung have some lovely scenes of sexual awkwardness and there is a particularly funny moment where dad Appa attempts to be the facilitator to the romance.
Jean Yoon as mother Umma and Ins Choi as son Jung complete the very balanced cast, but Choi has another more significant contribution as the playwright. He has created a story that certainly should be identifiable with new Canadians but also reaches out to the family of man in general.
Kim's Convenience is a play that has a foot set in Korea, a foot set in Canada and a story that belongs to families everywhere. All families wrestle with hopes and dreams for their children but that anxiety explodes in anger and fear that threatens to derail the underlying love. When the worry that desires for success will not be fulfilled, it becomes very difficult to find the balance between guidance and meddling. Kim's Convenience tells its story in a charming way that most everyone I expect will have lived to some degree.
Run Time: approximately 80 minutes with no intermission

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