Kim's Convenience: On now at Soulpepper

 Esther Jun as Janet and Paul Sun-Hyung Lee as her father, Mr. Kim

Esther Jun as Janet and Paul Sun-Hyung Lee as her father, Mr. Kim

By Denise Balkissoon

Every second-gen* daughter of a workaholic immigrant father should go see Kim's Convenience. Mr. Kim may be Korean, not Trinidadian, and he's a shopowner in Regent Park, not an electrician-turned-politician in Scarborough, but I'm pretty sure he got his schtick from my dad. Item A: fatherly concern wrapped up in insults. Guaranteed my dad has come out with just what Mr. Kim asks Janet: "Why not do something 'real' and make your your low-earning, arty job a 'hobby'? What? Why are you mad now?" Item B: Brutal, bone-cutting arguments about who owes who what, in terms of money, time and respect in this new land where none of the traditional rules apply. Item C: Oceans of intense love tussling for shelf space with old-school notions of masculinity, culture and honour.

Every member of the Kim's cast did a fantastic job breathing real personalities into the classic immigrant archetypes that we think we understand, but probably haven't though enough about. As a note-perfect Eau de Convenience Store wafted from the stage, Mr. and Mrs. Kim conversed in Korean, yet the audience kind of knew what they were saying. So real, and so brilliant.

I can't say if Kim's Convenience is actually Toronto's play of the year because I am a boor who never goes to plays. But in this one, I saw myself, and I saw my city, not just its hardworking past, but its brave, mongrel future.

Kim's Convenience is on now at the Young Centre in the Distillery. It's almost sold out, but there are still tickets left in mid-June. Grab 'em, now. 

*Or maybe I mean first-gen? Copy editors and genealogists, help me out here.