nytheatre.com review by Judith Jarosz
August 13, 2010
I am a firm believer in the immense power of humor and sharing experiences as healing tools. Miss Kim is a story of survival. Gina Kim, who co-wrote this piece with Ryan Tofil, who also appears in the show, takes us on a journey of her life from childhood to the present, which early on (the age of eight) was laden with the burden of sexual abuse, and a family who did not want to face the truth. We follow as she struggles through suicide attempts, relationship issues, therapy, sexual exploration, and self-help camps. The trauma of sexual abuse and getting victims to speak up and others to LISTEN seems to be a never-ending process, even in this so called age of openness and exploding technical "communications," but exploring this issue in a play can be a challenge. As sympathetic as we may feel, as an audience at a show, we want to be kept engaged, as well as informed.
Kim and her team tackle this dilemma in several productive ways. First, the cast consists of six energetic, versatile, and highly talented performers, including Kim and Tofil, who all handle the shifts from comedy to tragedy with deft aplomb. Cristy Candler, Tessa Faye, Matt McCurdy, and Justin Gentry all bring dynamic energy to multiple roles (watch Faye morph from middle aged Korean Mom, to ditzy teen beauty contestant, to stern therapist) and there is not a weak link in the bunch. In a stellar touch, Kim has an alter ego (played by Candler with wonderful humor and sincerity), allowing Kim to step in and out of scenes and dialogue while narration continues. Kim herself displays great comic timing and pathos, while never making you feel that she is feeling sorry for herself. It's a hard rope to walk, and she does it wonderfully. Then, Kim laces the entire piece with some hilarious situations and dialogue that lift us away from the tragedy just long enough to be able to digest it and go on.
Director Mathew Corozine does a wonderful job of mixing it up as well, keeping the action lively between the emotionally heavy scenes and using his athletic and versatile cast to the fullest. The stage pictures and use of movement to propel the story are top notch. Lighting designer Kia Rogers does a lovely job of creating moods that swing from the staid lights of a doctor's office to the beating throbs of a nightclub. The set, which is a bare stage with movable white cubes, and the costumes, which are modern casual clothing with added accessories as needed, are effective but not credited, though Kristy Lair is listed as creative designer.
At 90 minutes, the piece may benefit from some subtle and judicious trimming, but this may still be a work in progress. Speaking of progress, since the act of emotional healing is ongoing, the way that Kim includes the cast and the audience at the end is appropriate and touching.
Since this piece is about making people aware, it is important to add that Gina Kim is founder and president of ARIA (Awareness of Rape and Incest through Art). "The mission of ARIA is to empower survivors of sexual abuse and to support the healing process by transforming internal suffering into personal works of art. We lay a foundation of hope by both providing forums for artistic self-expression and spreading awareness of sexual abuse."