Parents make sacrifices for their children, to give them opportunities they did not have. Problems arise when the children have different ideas and the parent is not always in agreement. But does that mean the love is no longer unconditional and there is no room for forgiveness?
Kim’s Convenience is a laugh-out loud and heart-warming story that is ideal for an evening away from the crazy events in the world. It is the story of a Korean- immigrant family running a convenience store in Toronto. The neighbourhood is rapidly changing with new condominiums and gentrification. The father, Appa (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee), is faced with a decision to sell the store to a developer or to keep it and pass it on to his children. However, his daughter, Janet (Rosie Simon), has other plans for her life and the son, Jung (Richard Lee), is estranged from the family. Alex (Ronnie Rowe Jr.), a childhood friend of Jung, comes by and kindles a romance with Janet. Wife Umma (the marvelous Jean Yoon) is supportive of her husband but seeks her church for comfort and solace.
The play uses themes of the prodigal son and filial relationships to create a relatable portrait of the struggles between parent and child. The show focuses on Appa who, while brusque and old-fashioned, is kind, and, like any true father, wants what is best for everyone. However, he is not boring. As events unfold over the course of one day, Appa hilariously explains the do’s and don’ts of running a store, how to catch (and reform) a thief, the history of Korea vs. Japan, and his talent for martial arts. Everyone, including the local police, become the unlucky recipients of his unusual wisdom.
As Appa, Mr. Lee is a treasure. He beautifully portrays stern but loving parental authority and with perfect comic timing. Ms. Simon is fierce as the feisty Janet. Mr. Rowe moves effortlessly from each of the multiple characters he plays and brings unique qualities to each role. Richard Lee brings poignancy to the son who is ashamed and disappointed with his life and must swallow his pride.
The set is a marvel of authenticity. From the worn down door frames, the linoleum, the staple items on the shelves, and the pre-opening store prep, every detail seeps into the tone of the show. I can’t imagine how the cast works in front of those bags of potato chips without indulging. Get into your seat early so you can appreciate the whole décor.
While parents can aggravate and infuriate their children, they are always there for them. Their love is eternal if poorly expressed at times. Children need to make their way in the world. But if that path goes astray, home can be the best place to start again.
Photo Credit: Cylla von Tiedemann
Kim’s Convenience: A Soulpepper Production presented by Segal Centre. Written by Ins Choi. Directed by Weyni Mengesha. Show continues until March 19, 2017, at Segal Centre, 5170 Chemin de la Côte-Ste-Catherine, Montreal. Tickets $60 to $24.50. Call the box office 514-739-7944 or go to www.segalcentre.org