Kim’s Convenience - Theater Review

The Hit Play That Inspired the Netflix Series
The Hit play the Inspired the Netflix Series
The Hit play the Inspired the Netflix Series(Photos by Randy deKleine-Stimpson)
Published: Aug. 31, 2022 at 3:46 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 31, 2022 at 4:00 PM EDT
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The Thousand Islands Playhouse continues to shine this season with their current production of Kim’s Convenience.

It’s the play by Ins Choi that inspired the Netflix Series of the same name. Set in a multi-culture neighborhood in modern Toronto it centers on a Korean Canadian Family that owns a convenience store. The patriarch, Appa (James Yi) is often difficult and unforgiving but also ingratiating and caring. He has a notoriously bad temper and a nasty fight he had with his son Jung (Frank Chung) years ago led to his son being estranged. They haven’t spoken in years. His loyal wife Umma (Jane Luk) desperately wants to see her ancient (30 years old) daughter Janet (Kelly Seo) married and Umma still talks to Jung in secret, they often see each other in church.

Facing massive changes in the neighborhood, including a generous offer to buy the convenient store to put up a new condo, Appa faces tough decisions.  He also realizes retirement is imminent. Since Janet is romantically challenged and seems like she will be single forever, he proposes she take over the store. This doesn’t go well with her.  Even though she works in the store, her real dream is to a be a professional photographer, and she often books weddings and other events on the weekend. When Janet meets a high school friend Alex, (Cameron Grant) she hasn’t seen in years, a glimmer of romance ignites. This in addition to Jung wanting to reconcile with his father, complicate and spin the story in a different direction.

This play is perfectly structured and is a very easy ride, dodging cliches and triteness often, even if it does end a bit neatly and predictably.  The power of the play comes from the relationships and the players playing them. Kim’s Convenience also benefits from a tremendous amount of authenticity and specificity which make it unlike other family/business plays.  The use of Korean between characters without translation underscores this. You understand what is being said, without understanding a word of the language. This universality is the play’s strongest theme along with the importance of family.

The play shines brightest in its many scenes between Soo and Yi as the bickering daughter and father. They are sometimes, hysterical, sometimes heartbreaking, but always genuine. They highlight the adage, “the apple doesn’t fall from the tree.”

There is much to enjoy if you visit Kim’s Convenience, including the knock-out set by Julia Kim and the great cast and terrific direction by Esther Jun.

Playing at the 1000 Islands Playhouse in Gananoque, Ontario through September 18.