Saturday, January 21, 2012


So much positive press has already been spent on Ins Choi’s smash hit Kim’s Convenience that it is difficult to know precisely what to say that will further bolster this truly superb example of new and original theatre. What initially strikes one as a mark of excellence is the startlingly realistic set by Ken MacKenzie. The intricately detailed playing space not only captures the essence of the neighbourhood convenience store but also lends the overall visual experience a solid theatrical grace that allows actors to exist within a crowded environment as well as move outwards into an open playing space that frees them from the narrow aisles and crowded shelves of the classic small community grocery store. MacKenzie has taken a very basic design from a simple utilitarian model and presented it with truly iconic and epic proportions. His design is in perfect sync with a script that follows a solid and familiar plot structure and fills that structure with brilliant comic dialogue, political import, and extraordinary language play. All of these expertly crafted elements reveal the complex inner workings of a particular immigrant family struggling to survive within the day to day workings of a life-changing, working class, multi-cultural experience.

One conversation early on, between father and daughter, is an incredibly entertaining & complex example of rapid fire dialogue and break neck pacing that astounds the viewer with hilarious and unsettling comedy about the art of identifying customers as particular types according to race, gender, corporeal presence, and sexuality. By the end of this scene one is left with the distinct and disorienting feeling that they have been given a serious yet lighthearted lesson in sexual, physical, and racial profiling that reduces every customer who walks into Kim’s Convenience as an individual who must be quickly and astutely assessed in order to insure the safety and success of the store owner’s business. This is fine political parody and comic realism at its very best.

Toronto’s reputation for multi-cultural experience does not always meet with the most positive representations within diverse political discussions. What Choi’s script adds to this complex discussion is a very poignant, articulate, and comic look at the ways in which one man simultaneously holds his family together and splits it apart in his attempt to understand his own position within a difficult and exhausting familial and political milieu. The ensemble cast is impeccable, with Paul Sun-Hyung Lee as Appa, the father and store owner, giving a performance so filled with vocal range and physical agility that he dominates the stage from beginning to end. The rest of the cast is able to equal his powerful presence as they deliver a diverse blend of physical and comic expertise, from the beautifully subtle yet powerful shades of Jena Yoon’s Umma, Appa’s wife, to the feisty and playful tones of Esther Jun’s Janet, as the daughter. Clé Bennett’s four tiered role as Rich, Mr. Lee, Mike and Alex moves so seamlessly through the script and is delivered with such depth and comic diversity that it is one of those startlingly perfect performances where each character, portrayed by a single actor, is thoroughly unique & believable through the use of distinct costume design and pure physical and vocal skill. Ins Choi's small pivotal role as the son, Jung, is presented with the strength and subtlety one has come to expect from this multi-talented member of the Soulpepper academy. Under the clear and concise direction of Soulpepper alumnus Weyni Mengesha Kim’s Convenience is a theatrical gem not to be missed.

running at The Young Centre (Distillery District) until February 11th

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