Few plays can take a true account of sexual abuse, family betrayal, suicide attempts, HIV-scares, abortions, and failed relationships and turn it into a smart (and often funny) story of hope and survival with clever staging and amazing talent. Miss Kim does just that. Playing at Off-Broadway’s 45th Street Theatre, Gina Kim and Ryan Tofil’s Miss Kim takes a complex true biography and turns it into a smart play that is neither too emotionally draining nor overly laborious.
Gina Kim plays herself, a Korean-American girl, who, at the tender age of 8 years old, was molested by her uncle. With a mother telling her, “It’s just the Korean’s way of saying ‘you’re pretty,’” and a father who was beaten himself as a boy, Miss Kim was forced to bear this horrible tragedy alone. Gina went on to lead a life of insecurity, failed relationships, continued rapes, attempted suicide, HIV scares, abortions, and unsuccessful therapy, all while trying to find peace and love in her broken down world. Although heavy and compelling material, hilarious situations, great comedic timing, and quick-paced scenes allow for an easy digestion of these weighty issues.
Six incredibly talented and versatile actors play a whopping 97 different roles, each unique and completely different from the other. For example, caucasian actress, Tessa Faye, switches from a middle-aged Korean mom, to a stripper, to a stern psychiatrist, to an abuse survivor, to a giddy beauty contestant, to a lesbian, and so on. Each role requires various dialects, looks, costumes, and overall acting abilities that are completely different from the next. Matt McCurdy in his 24 various roles gives a brilliant performance, especially in his portrayal of the abusive uncle and date rapist.
Ingenious and creative staging under the direction of Matthew Corozine effectively uses two actresses, Gina Kim and Kathy Deitch, to play Miss Kim simultaneously so that dialogue and movement can continue seamlessly. David S. Goldstein also did a wonderful job of projecting real-life images on a large screen to bring reality to the scenes.
Although a bit long at 90 minutes and often too hard to believe, it is, after all, Gina Kim’s true story. She must be given enormous credit for her bravery, humor, and talent in exposing her candid battle and psychological torment that has haunted her throughout the years. Her organization, “ARIA (Awareness of Rape and Incest through Art) empowers those suffering from abuse to turn their personal struggles into artistic self-expression. As a person, I hope Gina Kim has conquered her failed attempts at love and happiness, and as a play, I hope Miss Kim will leave you feeling a little more insightful and sympathetic toward the abused.
Performances of Miss Kim are Thursday's - Sundays. Thursday and Friday at 8PM, Saturday at 7PM. Matinee performances are on Saturdays and Sundays at 2PM. Tickets for Miss Kim are $18.00 and can be ordered online at www.smarttix.com, or at the 45th Street Theatre box office (354 W. 45th Street) prior to each performance.
As part of an ongoing commitment to support organizations that make a difference for victims of abuse, the production team of Miss Kim has chosen the Korean American Family Service Center (non-profit serving to prevent and end domestic violence and relationship abuse) and Restore NYC (non-profit empowering survivors of sex trafficking) to be community beneficiaries of the 2012 Miss Kim production.
Photo Credit: Susan Quinn