Review: ‘Kim’s Convenience’ is a Refreshing Change at Taproot

Lia Lee and James Yi. (Photo: Robert Wade/Taproot Theatre)

From stage to TV and back to stage again. That is the journey of Kim’s Convenience, a Canadian Korean comedy. Created by Ins Choi, this play was published in 2012, was first performed in a few local theatres then a TV version of the play premiered on CBC in October 2016. In July of 2018, the show became known internationally when the show debuted on Netflix. In January of this year, the TV started its 4th season. Finally, this week the play made its U.S. debut at Taproot Theatre.

Co-directed by Scott Nolte (founder of Taproot) and David Hsieh (founding artistic director of ReAct Theatre), Kim’s Convenience is a breath of fresh air at Taproot. It is one of the few plays that have been co-directed here, it features five actors making their Taproot Theatre debut and there is some Korean speaking and singing performed (without subtitles!) as well. The play is also very funny while having a lot of heart too. (Don’t worry, the Korean language is only minimal and you don’t need to know what they are speaking to understand what they are saying.

In a way, Kim’s Convenience is sort of like TV’s All in Family with Mr. Kim (James Yi) taking the role of Archie Bunker. Mr. and Mrs. Kim (Annie Yim) are first generation immigrants to Canada who purchased a convenience store when Mrs. Kim was pregnant with daughter Janet. Now 30 years later, Mr. and Mrs. Kim, also known as Appa and Umma (dad and mom) are beginning to think it might be time to retire. Appa begins to have an interest in passing on the store down to Janet (Lia Lee) while Janet is more interested in getting to know Alex (Obadiah Freeman) an old family friend.

Janet also wants to break free from Appa and Umma and pursue her budding career as a photographer. Her brother, Jung (Parker Kennedy) already did – by getting in trouble and getting kicked out by Appa.

Alex (Obadiah Freeman), Appa (James Yi) and Janet (Lia Lee) in “Kim’s Convenience.
(Photo: Robert Wade/Taproot Theatre)

Though still steeped in tradition, Appa likes to think of himself as a modern man who knows all of hip lingo the kids in the neighborhood are talking about. He fancies himself as to knowing who might be a shopper and who might be a “stealer” just by looking at them. He’s more preoccupied by the Japanese cars parked in the no-parking zone near his shop while his daughter reminds him that not everyone who drives a Japanese brand of car is actually Japanese. He’s a stubborn man who treats his adult daughter like a child and when it comes to Jung, he’d rather change the subject.

Kim’s Convenience is a very fun play with a lot of heart and a pretty simple plot. It’s a bit shorter than Taproot’s usual productions and its performances do not offer an intermission. You won’t need it though. Just when you think it’s time for a break, the actors are making their bows. Rest assured, you’ll get your money’s worth of laughs.

Although we might not be able to relate to some of the Kim family’s ways of doing things, we can relate with their family life. They laugh, fight and make up with each other, just like the rest of us.

This play wouldn’t be half as good without James Yi. He’s played the part before, so he’s a master at playing Appa. His comedic timing is good and Lia Lee makes for a great sparring partner. You’d swear that they are related in real life. Obadiah Freeman also does a fine job taking on not one, but four roles for play, each character completely different from the others. It’s very impressive.

On the other end of the spectrum is Parker Kennedy who comes across a little rough in his role. Unlike Lee whose acting seems natural, Kennedy’s is a bit forced. However he does have some nice interactions with Annie Yim’s Umma character. She’s a loving mother and doting wife and even though her son disappoints her some, her love is still apparent as she encourages him to make things right with this father.

As always, Mark Lund’s scenic and sound design is impressive. When you walk in, the convenience store on stage looks like it open for business and you’d be tempted to go up to grab a snack. Perhaps that is why there was an usher at the front of the stage before the show began when I went to make sure audience members didn’t do just that.

Kim’s Convenience is fairly family-friendly too, but be forewarned that there is some swearing, which surprised me somewhat. You don’t usually hear much swearing at a Taproot Theatre play and it didn’t add anything to the story either. Taproot recommends the play for those age 14 and up.

Kim’s Convenience continues through June 22, 2019. Tickets range from $27-$50 (depending on the performance date and time) and can be purchased online or by calling the box office at 206.781.9707. Taproot Theatre is locate at 204 N. 85th St., Seattle, WA 98103.

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Author: Jeffrey Totey

I write about arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.

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