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Miss Kim

Gina Kim's autobiographical play about her extremely troubled life properly belongs in a therapist's office.

By New York City
A scene from Miss Kim
(© Susan Quinn)
A scene from Miss Kim
(© Susan Quinn)
There's no doubt there are dark histories people need to reveal in order to get on with living, but those stories are best told to psychotherapists or during 12-step meetings. It's in those rooms where Gina Kim and Ryan Tofil's Miss Kim, now at the 45th Street Theatre, properly belongs.

Here, Kim is essentially playing herself in an elaborate confessional presentation of her troubled life as a Korean-American who was raised during the 1970s by parents who owned a 7-Eleven in Atlantic City. Kim was abused by an uncle from the age of seven or eight. Growing up as a young girl who didn't fit in to her Jersey shore surroundings, she fled to Korea to learn about her heritage. There, she was raped at 21.

And that's only the beginning of a saga that includes, among other calamities, continued mishandling by men she encountered and from whom she sometimes looked for abuse, bouts of therapy from which she gained no insights, dips into lesbian behavior, a series of jobs that didn't pan out, suicide attempts, and eventually founding Awareness of Rape and Incest Through the Arts (ARIA), a group she evidently let fade.

After all this, Kim obviously has decided that the best way to get her life fully back on the right track is by airing her story as a theater documentary, with another player also impersonating the unfortunate Miss Kim (Kathy Deitch). There are also four more players (Tessa Faye, Justin Gentry, Matthew McCurdy and collaborator Tofil) who appear quicko-chango, as 93 pivotal characters in the distressed damsel's tale.

Under Matthew Corozine's busy direction -- which involves staging several physical assaults and send-ups of unenlightened attitudes towards Asians -- the cast members go about their assignments while constantly rearranging tufted white hammocks that are part of the efficient set provided by David S. Goldstein. They are also required to change into myriad accessories hung, when not in use, on the stage right and stage left walls.

Having to portray so many figures (Gentry has the most at 27), the actors are under pressure to differentiate one person from another, and as a result sometimes look as if they've entered a National Mugging Contest. Among the additional demands put on them is portraying themselves.

And before the nearly two-hour work ends, they each take turns declaring their respect and love for Gina Kim -- who admittedly deserves our sympathy and understanding, if not our attendance at this less-than-successful theatrical enterprise.


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