Westport Country Playhouse
“Kim’s Convenience,” the delightful play by Ins Choi now being presented at Westport Country Playhouse is a real warm hug of a show. Focusing on a Korean family and the convenience store that they own, this play can be both laugh-out-loud funny as well as sweetly touching. The cast is uniformly wonderful and director Nelson T. Eusebio III keeps the show moving at a graceful pace.
“Kim’s Convenience” is about ninety minutes long and, during that time, the audience really comes to care for this family and what will happen to their convenience store, with impending condos being built in the neighborhood. The store itself has been meticulously created by the brilliant scenic-designer You-Shin Chen and it looks so authentic that one almost wants to go shopping there after the show. Westport Country Playhouse has a real honey of a production in “Kim’s Convenience” and it is not to be missed.
At the start of the play, we meet Appa (excellently portrayed by David Shih), a Korean business man and father who runs the convenience store, which is named after the family (Kim is their last name). This character’s accent is strong and it is sometimes hard to understand what Appa is saying, but this turns out to be part of the charm of this show, as well. In contrast, his daughter Janet (the terrific Cindy Im) speaks English much better and clearer than her father. Their ways of speaking show just one of the differences between father and daughter. There is also Appa’s wife, Umma (the lovely Chuja Seo), who speaks only Korean in the store, but there is a scene in a church where she speaks English, as well. The dilemma in “Kim’s Convenience” is that condos are being built and there is word that a Walmart will be moving in, taking business away from the convenience store.
Despite this problem, Appa wants to keep the store open and have it run by a member of his family. It must be mentioned that there is also Appa and Umma’s son, Jung (well-played by Hyunmin Rhee), who is estranged from his father and who has committed crimes in the past. Still, the tone of the show is bright and enjoyable and there are some scenes which are absolutely hilarious. This laughter, however, is never at the expense the family’s ethnicity or difference in language—instead, it is familiar ties and romantic moments that inspire the comedy in the show. “Kim’s Convenience” also contains wistfully moving scenes, but this play is so well-written and directed that the shifts in tone are absolutely seamless.
There is actually a fifth performer in the show—the fantastic Eric R. Williams—who mainly plays the character of Alex (a friend of Jung’s and Janet’s), a young police officer who has charm to spare. What’s really special about this actor, however, is that he plays at least four other characters and Williams is so good and convincing playing each part that it truly feels like each of these characters are being played by a different performer. Indeed, even in this strong cast, this actor really stands out and he is effortlessly likable.
This is not to say that Williams steals focus, however, for the real heart to “Kim’s Convenience” is with Appa and his family and what will happen to their store. As mentioned, the details of the set design of the store are absolutely perfect and the costume design by Lux Haac is likewise spot-on and actually displays the differences in the generations. Marie Yokoyama is the fine lighting designer and the sound design, by Twi McCallum, is so good that one can hear every word, no matter what language is being spoken.
During the ninety minutes of “Kim’s Convenience,” there are familiar and romantic ties being sewn, but I would hate to give away any of the plot points of this show, for it is in the unexpected moments and surprise encounters that make this play so heartwarming. “Kim’s Convenience” captures this family so precisely and thoughtfully, with topnotch direction and acting, that the themes in this work become universal. By all means, make a stop at “Kim’s Convenience” at Westport Country Playhouse for one of the most lovable and also engagingly funny shows imaginable.
“Kim’s Convenience” runs through July 17, 2022, at Westport Country Playhouse, in Westport, CT. For information and tickets, please visit www.westportplayhouse.org
Photo: David Shih and Cindy Im
Photo by Carol Rosegg