BWW Review: KIM'S CONVENIENCE at Taproot Theatre
KIM'S CONVENIENCE at Taproot Theatre is full of laughs and heart. A convenience store is often the hot spot of a community, where you can find a little of whatever you need. For the Kim family, the convenience store is much more than that. It is their hope, their conduit to a brighter future. Its constant need of attention is also an albatross and point of contention. When an unsuspecting police officer responds to a 911 call from the store, he finds more than a variety of snacks. KIM's CONVENIENCE is a witty look at everyday life with surprising insight into human nature.
In KIM'S CONVENIENCE, a Korean family navigates the many struggles of an immigrant family building a life in the west, in Toronto, Canada. Appa and Umma have made many sacrifices in order to provide for their children, Jung, and Janet. Now as young adults these two must find ways to fit into both worlds. Their differing world views make extra obstacles for the generations to understand each other. The convenience store is the center of it all.
Lia Lee (Janet) is a delightfully fresh look at a child of immigrants. She must balance her own hopes and dreams with the pressure to succeed. She finds a lovely balance of speaking her mind, being playful with Appa, and carrying her parents' expectations. Parker Kennedy (Jung) has the heavy task of playing the prodigal son. His interactions with Amma seemed a bit formulaic and trite, but his penitent appearance at the convenience store is rife with all the emotions of that situation. He brings timidity, humility, and hope and made us all want to heal our broken relationships. Annie Yim (Umma) is the steady thread, providing the constant source of love and acceptance. Obadiah Freeman (Rich, Mr. Lee, Mike, Alex) is the handyman of the show with a bag full of tools and tricks. He manages to make his characters different, interesting, and always brings something interesting to each of his scenes. James Yi (Appa) is as complex as his character. His commitment to all the aspects of Appa, both the virtues and the vices, brings to life a character that is real, shaded with inconsistencies, and recognizable to us all. He subtly shifts from comedic jabs at his own accent to dropping truth bombs.
The production includes an amazing set by Mark Lund. The interior of the convenience store is detailed and interesting, making a virtual playground for the cast to explore. The amount of set dressing is really remarkable. Lighting design by Amanda Sweger is subtle and unobtrusive, guiding our eyes without being forceful. Direction by David Hsieh and Scott Nolte is brisk and intentional. Their use of few pauses makes them more powerful when they happen. They drive the story forward and then let it blossom before us. The entire production has the air of a group of people that have been together a long time. They are all in sync and have the same goal.
While the premise of the story is that of an immigrant family, the ultimate revelation is a universal message. No one is perfect. We all make mistakes. At the end of the day, our children's happiness is more important and valuable than anything else. Throughout the story, Appa grapples with naming his story, his legacy. He repeatedly states that the convenience store has been everything, their livelihood, and their pathway to a better life. In the end he realizes that his real story is not a place, not his business or his career, but rather the love he has shared with his family. In a time when immigrants are often seen with thinly veiled fear or animosity, this show reminds us that native or immigrant, our hearts all feel love the same.
KIM'S CONVENIENCE is playing now through June 22nd at the Taproot Theatre. For tickets or more information, visit www.taprootthreatre.org.