Like Father, Like Son
I grew up the only Anglo-Saxon-Protestant kid in a community of immigrants from Holland. Both sides of my family tree had arrived in Canada more than 100 years earlier, but my playmates’ parents had just left the “old country” recently. The parents would talk to the kids in Dutch and the kids responded in English – but other than the language, and the church and school we attended, there weren’t that many differences.
That’s the best part of getting an inside view of another culture: we learn that the differences aren’t as pronounced as we might have thought. Kim’s Convenience, now playing at the Grand Theatre in London, gives us an interesting look at the Korean immigrant’s experience in Canada. And although there are differences, by the end of this touching story, we know we are all the same.
Kim’s Convenience is reminiscent of other productions: the immigrant experience is similar to the stories in Nia Vardalos’ movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Joe DiPietro’s play Over the River and Through the Woods. In both those shows, we see immigrants clash with the next generation, but family relationships are heartwarming. The Dad (Appa or Mr. Kim) is the same tyrant struggling with change as we see in Tula’s father in Greek Wedding. Paul Sun-Hyung Lee is perfect as Appa, the walking encyclopedia of Korean trivia, reluctantly adapting to Canadian life.
It was wonderful to see the playwright himself in the role of Jung, the son. Ins Choi wrote the play for the 2011 Toronto Fringe Festival, and then the work was produced by Soulpepper Theatre. Soulpepper’s production was brought the Grand. Ins Choi is, obviously, very good in the role, showing his awkwardness when caught between the two cultures.
Jean Yoon is good as the subservient wife, demonstrating a little rebellion by keeping in touch with her estranged son. Grace Lynn Kung, as Janet, the daughter, gives an apt portrayal of a young woman embracing things Canadian. Clé Bennet almost steals the stage in playing four roles, all customers of the convenience store.
The set is excellent: one could walk right onto the stage and pick up a litre of milk and a pack of gum.
On opening night many from the Korean community were in the audience. When the characters on stage were speaking Korean, there would be small laughs, comments and nods of recognition. Those of us who don’t understand the Korean language still understood what was going on during the clash of the generations.
This play has a heart-warming story and it is very well done, offering the perfect mix of comedy and emotion. The changing times have an effect on every family. The immigrants’ stories are all similar, no matter what culture they came from, and in the end we learn we are not so very different.
Kim’s Convenience continues at the Grand Theatre, London until February 2. Tickets are available at the Grand box office at 672-8800 or 1-800-265-1593 or visit www.grandtheatre.com.
By Ins Choi
Directed by Weyni Mengesha
Performed by Clé Bennett, Ins Choi, Grace Lynn Kung, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, and Jean Yoon
Originally produced at the 2011 Toronto Fringe Festival, and then Soulpepper Theatre
Grand Theatre, London
January 15 to February 2, 2013
Reviewed by Mary Alderson