“Kim’s Convenience”, a 2011 play by Ins Choi that inspired a 2016 Canadian sitcom that ran for six seasons before finding new life in reruns on Netflix, is now on stage at the Westport Country Playhouse. This well-acted but inconsequential family comedy may nonetheless be just the reassuring comfort food audiences are currently craving.
“All in the Family” with less edge and a Korean sensibility is an apt description of “Kim’s Convenience. Set in the Canadian convenience store run by Appa Kim, the play is also a familiar generational tale about immigrant parents still tied to the old ways with kids who want to branch out. Appa (David Shih) is the garrulous but lovable head of the family Kim with a patient wife, Umma (Chuja Seo), rebellious daughter, Janet (Cindy Im) and estranged son, Jung (Hyunmin Rhee). There are a few storylines here all fairly resolved in the 80 minute running time of the play (no intermission). The family dilemma of trying to get the pushing-30 Janet a husband and a reconciliation with wayward son, Jung, are the primary focus. The other conflict is whether Appa should sell his store to an aggressive real estate agent when he really wants his family to carry on his legacy.
There is little new or fresh here, but the play is nothing if not sincere. It will be hard not to smile and maybe even wipe back a tear or two since the emotions on display seem absolutely genuine even if a bit forced at times. All the acting here is solid, however, with Mr. Shih anchoring the play with a heartfelt performance of a father torn between traditional Korean ways and love for his children. Ms. Im’s Janet is a constant delight most effective in the highly charged arguments she has with Shih and in the highly charged chemistry she shares with Eric R. Williams, a hunky policeman from her past. Kudos to Mr. Williams who also plays two other smaller roles in the play and is unrecognizable in each. I also enjoyed the mother/son scene set in a church that Seo and Rhee play beautifully.
Directed with a loving hand by Nelson T. Eusebio III, the play is consistently genuine and genial. You-Shin Chen’s impressive and authentic convenience store setting gets every single detail right and it is all lit perfectly with the required florescent lighting by Marie Yokoyama.
You may have trouble remembering much about “Kim’s Convenience” after leaving the theatre, but there is also no reason you won’t consider it a play very much worth your time while watching.
“Kim’s Convenience” continues at the Westport Country Playhouse through July 17. For further information, call the box office at: 203.227.4177 or visit: www.westportplayhouse.org.
Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and the Stratford Crier and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: firstname.lastname@example.org. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.