Kim’s Convenience at the Chemainus Theatre welcomes the audience into the family, providing plenty of laughter and touching our hearts along the way, anchored by standout performances by the small cast.
This play, on which the popular CBC sitcom of the same name is based, opened last weekend to a standing ovation.
Mr. Kim — a proud Korean Canadian (played by Jimmy Yi) — runs a convenience store that could be located in any town anywhere but happens to be in the Regent’s Park neighbourhood of Toronto. He wants his daughter, Janet (Agnes Tong), to take it over so he can retire. She wants a career as a professional photographer, and wants no part of the idea.
The two are both stubborn and gifted with the wit to jab an opponent where it hurts most so their cross-generational wrangles are long, loud, and painful.
And really, really funny.
Almost from the start, audience members become part of the family, as we see feisty old Appa Kim try to manage his store and his family. There are threats appearing from every angle to daunt him: he’s aging, a Walmart is rumoured to be coming to his neighbourhood, his wife, Umma, (Susan Hanson) is quietly manoeuvering him at will, his daughter is intransigent and, at age 30, still unmarried, and his son, Jung (John Han), who walked out nearly 20 years ago, still will not return.
As the story starts, he receives an offer to buy his store, and Appa is suddenly bewildered.
How can anyone simply buy his life?
In the end this difficulty resolves itself as it should but in between, the story is all about the details.
First, the setting of the store is absolutely right. Every one of us has been in such a place. We feel at home.
The family is so real, so fraught with the joys and pains of growing up ethnic in Canada, so involved in the everyday details we all know that we are just about onstage with the talented actors. And they are talented indeed.
Yi and Tong are superb as the scrappy father and daughter. Their relationship rings true from the start of the play to its conclusion. Hanson and Han don’t have as much to do but quietly keep the play moving forward with small but important details. And Michael Clarke, who plays Rich, Mr. Lee, and Alex, is not only a fine actor, but a quick-change artist, too.
There is a lot of humour in this play — when you go, you’ll find yourself smiling over and over as you recognize some emotion or bit of business that seems to have slipped from your own life and through the doors of Kim’s Convenience.
Get on the phone or the computer and order up your tickets to see the show at Chemainus right away. It only runs until May 26.