Theatre Review - Kim’s Convenience

Ins Choi in Kim’s Convenience [Mark Douet]

I ADMIT to having been a little wary of seeing Ins Choi’s play, Kim’s Convenience, which launched the eponymous hit Netflix sitcom. I presumed it would be lightweight, soapy fare, but was swiftly won over. The 2011 fringe hit pushes boundaries and entertains in equal measure.

This 80-minute comedy drama about a Korean family-run corner store in Toronto is heart-warming and often very funny but also a poignant examination of the experience of first-generation immigrants and their children.

The latter often find it harder to adapt than their parents – caught between two ways of life and a desire to be accepted on their own terms – and this dilemma is sensitively explored.

Inspired by his experiences of growing up in Canada, Choi (who played Mr Kim’s son in the original stage version) stars as Mr Kim (Appa) the hardworking, sometimes irascible, patriarch.

Appa has to navigate a rapidly changing neighbourhood – the arrival of Walmart threatens his business – and the widening gap between his values and those of his children.

His daughter Janet (Jennifer Kim) has a crush on the local policeman (Miles Mitchell, who plays several roles). She dreams of becoming a professional photographer, Appa wants her to take over the store.

Jung (Brian Law), his estranged son who left home when a row with his father turned ugly, has just had a baby. Jung misses his family, and is struggling to get by in the car rental job he hates.

This big-hearted play is a terrific vehicle for east Asian actors (more please) and the performances are pitch-perfect, although it’s a shame Appa’s church-going wife Umma (Namju Go) is underwritten here.

It’s slickly directed by Esther Jun (who previously played Janet) and Mona Camille’s detailed grocery store is a joy. What’s not to like?

Until February 10

Originally pubished by Islington Tribune