Soulpepper opens their second annual Family Festival with Kim’s Convenience returning to the company’s playbill for the fifth time. Taking root in the 2011 Fringe Festival, Ins Choi’s play has toured eight Canadian cities over the past five years, making its Toronto return this season for the perfect holiday heart warmer.
As the title suggests, the play takes place in a convenience store run by the Kim family in Toronto’s Regent Park neighborhood. With rapidly shifting development underway, Mr. Kim/Appa (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) is presented with an offer to sell his store at a generous price and retire after decades of serving his community. With this offer in mind, the play is ultimately family-oriented as Mr. Kim tries to encourage his 30-year-old daughter Janet (Chantelle Han) to take over the family business. Through endless humour, plot twists and familial conflict, Kim’s Convenience touches audiences from all backgrounds while reminding us of the bonds that love both provides and nurtures.
Choi’s use of realism elevates the production’s entertainment and representation of Korean-Canadian and African-Canadian people. The racial stereotypes are fully presented to the extent that you don’t want to laugh for fear of being offensive – but that’s okay, because you can. Whether you come from a Korean background or not, you connect and feel for what the Kim family is going through. We know of the trinkets and perils that families bring and this play ultimately sends those emotions right back home.
The entire cast of five continues to charm and cherish this beautiful piece of theatre. Andre Sills provides a good repertoire of four roles throughout the play, most notably that of policeman, Alex. The connection between Alex and Janet is adorable, just as the love between Mr. Kim and Umma (Jean Yoon) is far from dead. Yoon effectively upholds the respected matriarchal rule despite Jung (Patrick Kwok-Choon) being against his father’s initial treatment of Umma. Han perfectly portrays the challenges associated with growing up as a first-generation Canadian, struggling to be respected and to have her father’s love expressed.
Scenic and costume designer, Ken MacKenzie upholds the realistic elements of the play through the utterly familiar convenience store design and contemporary clothing. The overarching stained glass windows from the Korean church emphasize the underlying role of religion but are slightly overshadowed by the store during the church scene. Whereas Choi originally wanted to stage the play in an actual store to provide for “the smell,” sound designer, Thomas Ryder Payne succeeds in everything from the doorbells to traffic. From the performance to the design, you’re almost ready to go up and purchase a magazine.
Check your tickets before heading over to the Young Centre because Soulpepper is making a return to the Bluma Appel Theatre this season. Starting off as a small production, Kim’s Convenience has made great strides in not only representing the Canadian landscape but establishing the common frameworks of family and culture. We all have something to share, so share this touching performance with your family before it sells out.
Kim’s Convenience runs at the Bluma Appel Theatre to Dec. 26. For more information and to purchase your tickets, visit www.soulpepper.ca.