The Georgia Straight - - Contents -

By Ins Choi. Di­rected by Kaitlin Wil­liams. At Pa­cific The­atre on Satur­day, Septem­ber 8. Con­tin­ues un­til Oc­to­ber 6

Be­fore there was Kim’s Con­ve­nience, 2 the hit CBC sit­com, there was Kim’s Con­ve­nience, the play. It de­buted at the Toronto Fringe Fes­ti­val in 2011 and sub­se­quently toured Canada and en­joyed an off-broad­way run be­fore hit­ting Canadian air­waves.

The epony­mous Mr. Kim (James Yi) has run his cor­ner store in Toronto’s Re­gent Park neigh­bour­hood for as long as his kids, Janet (Jessie Liang) and Jung (Lee Shorten), can re­mem­ber. Thirty-year-old Janet has helped her par­ents—her appa and umma— run the store for nearly that long her­self. But she doesn’t want to in­herit the fam­ily busi­ness. She has as­pi­ra­tions to be a pro­fes­sional photographer, and doesn’t want any­thing to do with price guns and in­ven­tory. Mean­while, her brother Jung fled the fam­ily as a teenager and only or­bits their outer rim.

That sum­mary sounds pretty som­bre, but Kim’s Con­ve­nience is up­roar­i­ously funny. The pro­duc­tion hinges on the as­sured, sub­tle per­for­mance of Yi as Appa. The show be­gins with Yi open­ing up the store. For a cou­ple of min­utes, he silently roves the stage, load­ing the cash reg­is­ter and futz­ing with the potato chips. He’s em­i­nently watch­able and we’re ut­terly con­vinced that this man has his 10,000 hours of shop­keep­ing un­der his belt. From there, Yi’s con­fi­dence and comic tim­ing drive the ac­tion.

Carolyn Ra­panos’s set is per­fect and per­fectly par­tic­u­lar. From the On­tario Lottery Gold de­cal above the door to the Toronto Now news­pa­per in the rack, it’s a re­mark­able recre­ation of the fa­mil­iar cor­ner store. Pa­cific The­atre has a small al­ley stage, with the au­di­ence watch­ing the ac­tion from both sides. This can cre­ate ex­tra chal­lenges for de­sign­ers, but Ra­panos, along with direc­tor Kaitlin Wil­liams and light­ing de­signer Jonathan Kim, has the space fig­ured out.

When at­tend­ing the show, book tick­ets on the south side of the stage. That way you can walk through the set on the way to your seats and re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate all the fine de­tail.

Some of that mer­chan­dise gets knocked around, though, as there’s a lot of ac­tion in this 75-minute show. There’s noth­ing par­tic­u­larly sur­pris­ing about how the plot plays out. You can see the bones of the fu­ture sit­com in the show’s ham­mier mo­ments and dad jokes. But it also wres­tles—well, maybe it play-fights—with more se­ri­ous is­sues. The show ex­plores the ten­sions that of­ten arise be­tween the life choices and lega­cies of first-gen­er­a­tion im­mi­grants and their chil­dren.

And it’s not afraid to poke fun at the cul­tural stereo­types within and around the Kim fam­ily. In a very funny se­quence, Appa out­lines his com­pli­cated tax­on­omy of po­ten­tial shoplifters: “Fat black girl is no steal. Fat white guy, that’s steal. Fat guy is black, brown shoes, that’s no steal. That’s can­cel-out combo.”

Kim’s Con­ve­nience is eas­ily the fun­ni­est show I’ve seen all year. If you like the TV show, you’re go­ing to love this pro­duc­tion.


Bridge from Allister Macgillivray’s “Song for the Mira”. Pop­u­lar­ized by Anne Mur­ray in the early ’80s, it’s a Cape Bre­ton an­them that of­fers “I’ll trade you 10 of your cities for Mar­ion Bridge and the plea­sure it brings.”

The three sis­ters at the cen­tre of Daniel Macivor’s Mar­ion Bridge are haunted by an early fam­ily visit to that land­mark. It was a day out that turned sour, and that sour­ness seems to in­fect the fam­ily all these years later.

Agnes (Lynda Boyd), Theresa (Ni­cola Cavendish), and Louise (Beatrice Zeilinger) have gath­ered in their fam­ily home to care for their dy­ing mother and read­ju­di­cate old feuds.

Agnes is a hot mess. She claims to be an ac­tor, but con­fesses that it’s just “a very ex­pen­sive, time-con­sum­ing, and de­mor­al­iz­ing hobby”. She’s also prob­a­bly an al­co­holic. There are a num­ber of great act­ing lessons in this pro­duc­tion. One of these is the re­straint with which Boyd plays be­ing drunk. Her Agnes is all en­er­getic lies. She talks mostly to con­vince her­self of what she’s say­ing.

Ni­cola Cavendish is as much a Canadian leg­end as the bridge it­self. I’ve al­ways ad­mired the cre­ativ­ity and speci­ficity of her per­for­mances. There’s a small mo­ment in a mono­logue where she makes this un­ortho­dox gesture with a prop—a lit­tle bag of notes from her mother. It’s both un­ex­pected and per­fect.

Louise is tac­i­turn, but she gets the fun­ni­est lines. She wouldn’t know this con­cept, but Louise isn’t self­ac­tu­al­ized. We never un­der­stand why, but she’s stunted. Zeilinger galumphs around the stage, re­veal­ing how her Louise is deeply un­com­fort­able in her own skin.

If par­ents never died, their chil­dren would have noth­ing to write about. Moth­ers dy­ing just off-stage are a fa­mil­iar trope, and Macivor’s play is very con­ven­tional in its struc­ture and source ma­te­rial. Yet it’s be­come a con­tem­po­rary Canadian clas­sic for good rea­sons. It’s gen­tle and funny and full of small truths.

If the per­form­ers and the text are sub­lime, the pro­duc­tion is less so. Direc­tor Roy Surette seems un­sure of how to think about the show’s Cape Bre­ton–ness. Tiko Kerr’s set— a can­vas false prosce­nium, a few walls, and a mish­mash of fur­ni­ture—seems gener­i­cally Canadian. There is barely a hint of a Nova Sco­tian ac­cent among the ac­tors. The mu­sic be­tween scenes is Celtic— the Rankin Fam­ily, maybe?—but it takes no risks.

Mar­ion Bridge might be bet­ter served by do­ing less. Cavendish, Boyd, and Zeilinger could keep us rapt with just a kitchen ta­ble and three chairs.


Kim’s Con­ve­nience

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