THEATRE SPOTLIGHT – Kim’s Convenience

From the small screen to the big stage …

Watching Kim’s Convenience from our POV in Neptune Theatre’s Balcony Right is akin to viewing the store set from a ceiling-mounted security camera.  But that’s apropos for a show set in a corner store.

Kim’s Convenience is a 90 minute slice of life in a Korean-Canadian family owned shop.  Canadian actor Ins Choi wrote the play and somehow adds a bit of grit to a great big heart and still maintains a light-hearted charm.  It may be a little overly ambitious, attempting to inject some family drama into what is essentially a sitcom-styled script.  The characters have more time to develop in an ongoing TV series than they do in a one-act play.  I don’t think I was alone in feeling surprised the performance was ending when it did.  But it covers a lot of fascinating ground in a short time, including race relations within ethnic neighbourhoods, within a family, and the adjustment of immigrants and their Canadian-born children to their adopted culture.  Oh, and there are plenty of laughs!

The interaction between Mr. Kim or “Appa” (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) and his customers and family members rings true to life, capturing a natural humour and the energy of Regent Park, the Toronto neighbourhood in which the play is set.  Lee scored a Toronto Theatre Critic “Best Actor” Award for this show in 2012, and rode the success of the play to the lead role in the popular sitcom of the same name. 

There aren’t a lot of Asian-Canadian comedies on TV right now, and diverse audiences have gobbled it up, garnering over a million viewers weekly, substantial numbers for a Canadian-made show.  This enthusiasm was palpable among the opening night audience whose reception was boisterous and loud, adding an energy that is sometimes lacking from the lafftrack-free television version.  Live on the Fountain Hall stage, I did get the sensation of watching a TV taping, especially given that several of the play’s scenes have now aired in episodes of the show.

Lee is the only one of the actors in this Halifax production who appears in the television program.  Putting in his 400th performance this week, he’s the only actor who’s played the role of Appa, on stage or TV.  At the opening night after-party, Lee told me he’s loved touring the show across Canada, with Halifax the tenth stop.  And he’s excited to be taking the production “Off Broadway” in July for a two week stint in New York, a city he has yet to visit.

So let Kim’s Convenience take care of your entertainment ‘Needs’ … but remember, this is a limited time offer!  The show runs until February 5th, at Neptune Theatre.


JC visits Kim's Convenience with Dartmouth-Cole Harbour MP and fellow shopper, Darren Fisher