Mr.Kim is the proud owner of a long held family convenience store in Toronto. He knows his clientele well, tries his utmost to be an excellent sales man, and recognizes shoplifters a mile away. The only thing he doesn’t have figured out? His children. ‘Kim’s convenience,’ playing at the Arts Club until May 24th, is a touching and funny story about family struggles, desires and disappointments.
The story takes place in Toronto and is set in a typical community convenience store. Sadly, the store is slowly being engulfed on all sides by modern property developments and will soon welcome Walmart amongst its neighbors. Mr. Kim must face this rapidly changing landscape and accept the modern developments taking place around him; as a man dedicated to his traditional Korean ideals, this can prove rather difficult.
The evolution of the surrounding neighborhood and of modern society highlights the traditional outlook of Mr. Kim; His Korean culture, upbringing and ideals are clearly ingrained in him, his conservative views revealed through the dialogue and his interactions with other characters. The most obvious example of this is his attitude towards his thirty year old unmarried daughter Janet, whose ‘single and ready to mingle’ attitude is reprehensible in his eyes.
Mr. Kim makes no attempts to hide his desire for his daughter to wed, settle down, and take over his store, fulfilling in his eyes the traditional role of a child. His attitude is out of place in this contemporary Canadian society however, where young people are less inclined to settle down early and have more choices as to their future careers, a point his daughter tries repeatedly to make clear to him. His attitude towards his store is similarly traditional, choosing to keep it in the family even in the wake of a profitable offer to sell.
His wish has always been to pass his store onto his children; in light of his family’s fractured status however, this has not seemed likely for some time. Janet is an unmarried thirty year old photographer with higher ambitions than taking over her family’s convenience store, and her brother Jung has been absent from the family for many years after a falling out with his father. Though out of communication, he is certainly not out of mind, remaining in contact with his mother, who acts as a peaceful mediator amidst the various stubborn family members.
For Mr. Kim is certainly a tenacious man, a strict and serious father who has worked tirelessly for many years so that his children can have a better life here in Canada. He can be stubborn and childish, standoffish and reclusive and it is not hard to believe he could willingly hold an obdurate grudge with his son, no matter how much it clearly pains him. He is also quite unaffectionate and withdrawn with his daughter, their interactions divulging his discomfort with displays of affection. There were many relatable moments such as these in the play, as I imagine it was with many people in the audience who have ever struggled with unaffectionate parents, where Janet actively pleaded for some sentiment from her father who declined repeatedly to give it.
There are many intensely familiar family situations that occur in the play, from a parent’s blunt remarks that embarrass their children, to a child’s display of ingratitude towards their parents, a mother’s calming presence in the face of dissention, or a young person’s dissatisfaction with life. These are all occurrences that anyone can relate to and problems that surface in all types of families. Thankfully- comedic relief is generously interwoven throughout, striking a perfect balance to the more dramatic moments.
It is a play to make you smile, reflect and emphasize. Spend 90 minutes with the Kim’s and see for yourself how this little convenience store tale made it from the fringe festival of Toronto onto the Arts Club’s Granville Island stage.