I laughed. I cried. I know that’s a cliché but it’s what happened yesterday when we attended the play Kim’s Convenience at the Manitoba Theatre Centre. Kim is a Korean teacher who immigrated to Canada as a young married man to make a better life for his family. He buys a convenience store in a Toronto neighbourhood and spends his life behind the counter.
But Kim knows the store is not what his life is all about. “This store is not my story,” he says to his children. “You are my story.” That was one of the lines that brought tears to my eyes.
Kim’s children’s stories have not turned out as he hoped. His son ends up in trouble with the law, has a fight with his father, and runs away from home with all the money from the store safe. Now married with a son of his own and working at a dead-end job in the car rental business he has reconnected with his mother but he and his Dad are estranged. Kim’s daughter is 30, a professional photographer who can’t afford to live on her own and isn’t married.
One morning a condo developer offers Kim a bundle for his convenience store. Should Kim sell it and retire or is there still a chance one of his children will want the business? As the family goes through the day of the real estate agent’s offer we are treated to a window on their lives.
I think the reason the audience laughs so often, and becomes so engaged with the play is because as they observe the Kim family’s interactions they see their own families. Whether they are of Korean, Polish, Ukrainian, Jewish or Mennonite descent they recognize some of their family characteristics in the Kims. They see their own grandfathers and fathers in Mr. Kim’s old-fashioned ways and attachment to the ‘mother country.’ They see their own kids and grandkids in the Kim children who are having trouble deciding what they want in life and their mothers and grandmothers in Mrs. Kim’s steadfast love and loyalty to her family.
The play is only on for a few more days. Go and see it. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry.
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