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Off Broadway

Kim’s Convenience: Canadian Goodness Imported by Soulpepper

Kim’s Convenience: Canadian Goodness Imported by Soulpepper
Paul Sun-Hyung Lee

Paul Sun-Hyung Lee. Photo by Cylla von Tiedermann

Today, it seems, is the day for truth to come out at Kim’s Convenience, the beautifully crafted play brought to us by the award winning Canadian theatre company, Soulpepper that has literally taken over the Pershing Square Signature Center. Just one of numerous productions brought from Toronto to New York for the month of July, this is a loving and thoughtful introduction to the company. Basically a typical but immensely engaging story of first generation immigrants and their children. Ins Choi has written a story about a North Korean couple, who fled for Canada during the Korean War and set up a life and a convenience store in order to survive and raise their two children. But as my theatre companion said, this story is more universal. It is just like his family, one that fled Mussolini’s Italy for Chicago. His father is this father, and he is that child (I won’t reveal which).

Jean Yoon, Paul sun-Hyung Lee

Jean Yoon, Paul sun-Hyung Lee. Photo by Cylla von Tiedermann

As authentic as that meticulously designed store by Soulpepper company set and costume designer, Ken MacKenzie (with impeccable lighting by Lorenzo Savoini, and sound design by Thomas Ryder Payne), the cast come as close to inhabiting the parts and the environment as one could hope for. It feels every inch like a Toronto convenience store, like the ones I see when I go home to visit my friends and family. It’s hard to pin down how or why it feels so true and so Canadian but from my first glance I knew where I was. There is a unique difference in Kim’s Convenience to the overly packed corner delis and bodegas that occupy every corner of New York City, and even without the Canadian flag on the back wall and the cigarettes hidden behind a cover, it is as authentic as the people who inhabit it.

Ins Choi

Ins Choi. Photo by Cylla von Tiedermann

Paul Sun-Hyung Lee as Mr. Kim, or ‘Appa’, the father, has all the loving complexities of a man who has given up so much joy and personal pride for his family and their new existence. The portrayal is layered, touching and innately funny, almost instantly making us compassionately connect to this basically content and proud man. He sings or hums to himself as he opens up shop, pulling us into his orbit with every sigh and musical inclination. Even in the moments when he is unfairly attacking his equally real and complex daughter, Janet, played wonderfully by Rosie Simon, we can’t help but hold him in a great empathetic embrace. His wife, Umma, played by Jean Yoon, further creates a feeling of true familial bonds in her grunts and the loving and engaging way she speaks to her husband in Korean. It’s profoundly solid ground Choi places these three with his intricate and simple story-telling and dialogue. It is no wonder the piece is considered the most successful Canadian play in recent history, and has spawned a television show and numerous re-staging. This family just feels right.

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Off Broadway

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to

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