Miss Kim, a play by Gina Kim and Ryan Tofil in the NY Fringe Festival, centers on Gina Kim’s true life story thus far. Kim is a Korean American woman whose past childhood trauma of incest and later rape deeply affected her and caused her to engage in self destructive patterns. Kim’s repressed Korean upbringing discouraged her from acknowledging or dealing with this pain and the tragedies in her youth. Revealing her story in play form certainly lets all these gritty secrets out of the bag, and Kim bravely doesn’t shy away from them. The show goes back and forth from narrative to flashbacks in which four other non-Asian actors, Tessa Faye, Justin Gentry, Mathew McCurdy, and Ryan Tofil, play numerous characters in scenes with Kim. Kim, along with Cristy Candler, a very American-looking redhead, share the title character of Miss Kim. At times this convention of two actresses in the same role energizes and adds humor to the scenes, but, on occasion, I found myself wondering why there needs to be two actresses playing the same part. Kim, a very likable actress, at times fails to capture the emotional rawness the role requires. Perhaps Kim's multiple roles as playwright, producer and lead actress are too much for one plate.
The play, by Kim and Tofil, could benefit from some trimming, especially when the same information or stories are being retold with no new information. However, it is lightened up nicely with quirky, contemporary dialogue.
One highlight is that all of the talented actors give solid, performances and work as a cohesive ensemble. They are responsible for a surprising amount of comic moments in a drama of this subject, and are equally skilled in presenting the harrowing re-enactment scenes of Kim’s gritty and harsh traumas. Director Mathew Corozine deserves high recognition for orchestrating such a seamless show. Stand-out performances go to Mathew McCurdy as the incestuous uncle and rejected date,Vladimir, and Ryan Tofil, whose overall physical and vocal variety in his characterizations impressed. Tofil also was quite endearing as Justin, a love interest.
Lighting designer Kia Rogers manages well with a limited light plot. I did sympathize with Rogers when, at times, the actors' blocking and their light focus were out of sync, which can happen in festivals when multiple shows share the same light plot. The set, which consists of stage boxes, serves the physical actors well.
Overall, Miss Kim is an enjoyable show and I left the theater uplifted in the knowledge that this woman has and still is overcoming these painful traumas. She even started an organization on the subject: ARAI-Awareness of Rape and Incest through Art: http://www.ariany.org. The final cathartic moment, when Kim thanks and hugs the actors in a goodbye scene referencing the Wizard of Oz, is a nice touch.