Kimberly Levaco is a lot like all the other 16-year-old girls in her class.
She likes playing games. She likes to boss her parents around. She pouts with the best of them and sheâ€™ll laugh, but only if itâ€™s really funny.
The difference between Kimberly and all the other girls, however, is a jarring one.
She looks just like an 82-year-old woman.
She suffers from a disease that makes her body age 4.5 times faster than normal.
Thatâ€™s the situation of "Kimberly Akimbo," the sparkling and unusual play by David Lindsey-Abaire that opens the season and the life of a brand new theater company in town, The Splinter Group.
When you want to talk about dysfunction, you can just post a picture of the family in this play. But underneath all the craziness â€“ a drunken father, an injury/disease-prone, self-absorbed, unfaithful mother, an aunt who has both a criminal past and a criminal future and a harmless and curious classmate â€“ we find nuggets of gold and hearts of warmth in the most unexpected places.
Rick Pendzich, who plays the father, delivers a performance so nuanced and so genuine that you find it impossible to hate him, even as he avoids his family in favor of a barstool in a tavern. His occasional explosions of vitriolic temper only serve as a stark contrast to his belief in himself, as he says, "as a good guy."
Pendzich is at the absolute top of his game in this play. As he continues to mature and grow as an actor and as a man, he will make it worthwhile to go see him in any play heâ€™s in.
Diane Lane plays Kimberly, a tough task to act like a 16-year-old and look like you are 82. If there is one thing wanting in this production it would be a starker, more defined contrast between those two women. But, especially in the second act when Kimberly begins to finally discover family secrets, her emotional range soars. Lane is a marvelous singer who has graced musical venues for a long time and this is her first non-musical foray.
Linnea Koeppel deserves a special mention as Kimberlyâ€™s mother, who cares about little else in this world except herself and her afflictions. At one point she is pregnant and near delivery while also having "carpel tunnel syndrome, a broken leg, cancer, diabetes and a chipped tooth." Who knows what sheâ€™s really got.
The remaining two members of the cast are both up to the demands.
Ryan Krueger plays Kimberlyâ€™s nerdy classmate who is trying to figure out a way to kiss her, and Laura Monagle proves that her life of larceny does not prevent her from being a heady influence in Kimberlyâ€™s life.
In the end, this play is about both heartbreak and hope, with laughs and even some tears thrown in for good measure.
The Splinter Group is the baby of Jim Farrell who has taken on the task of building a theater company from the ground up. David Cecsarini at Next Act Theatre has proven it can be done, but itâ€™s a lot of work.
He directed this play and if the rest of the productions match this quality the theater panorama in Milwaukee will be much richer.
Credits: Director, Jim Farrell; Assistant Director, Jake Brockmann; Lighting Designer, Ross Zentner; Set Design, Jim Farrell.
"Kimberly Akimbo" runs through Oct. 5 at the Marian Center, 3211 S. Lake Dr.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Dave Begel
Published Aug. 30, 2016
Julie Tarney has just published a book, "My Son Wears Heels: One Mom's Journey from Clueless to Kickass," one that the New York Times Book Review called an "exceptional job of tracing the zigzagging line of Harry's self-identity."
Published Aug. 25, 2016
The ability to talk about race is behind the plan for OnMilwaukee's ongoing series of Milwaukee Talks: honest and frank discussions, unedited and focused on the issues of equality and justice. It's also the time for big dreams for the city.
Published Aug. 23, 2016
The Milwaukee theater season is underway and I've been looking through the schedule. I've found 24 productions I'm really anticipating. There are going to be others, and surprises, but my 24 are the productions I can't wait to see and experience.
Published Aug. 18, 2016
As Milwaukee struggles with the issue of how to deal with racial violence, it's critical to find answers to two key questions. The first question is how did Milwaukee become so racist. The second is how do we fix a culture that loves violence.
Published Aug. 16, 2016
Simon Mustaffa is 18 and lives in the Central City. He's off to UWM with a full scholarship and he has strong views about the violence in Sherman Park. For him, it's not a surprise at all; this explosion was a long time coming.
Published Aug. 16, 2016
All In Productions has a history that can be measured in months, but it has already staged some wonderful plays. It has produced five so far, and the next one is directed by artistic director Robby McGhee, who knows where this company wants to go.
Published Aug. 13, 2016
Under the feathery touch of director Marcella Kearns, Christopher Durang's "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" takes isolation, desolation and disappointment and stands them on their ear, filling the Cabot Theatre with chuckles, laughters and outright roars of fun
Published Aug. 12, 2016
A sweltering hot August night was the perfect atmosphere for the opening night of "No Exit," Jean Paul Sartre's trip through his particular and peculiar vision of hell. The Dale Gutzman-directed production is a searing journey through the existential mind.
Published Aug. 11, 2016
Election day has come and gone and some of the results in the primary contests are satisfying, but also quite a bit troubling. Leading the satisfaction category is the reelection of District Attorney John Chisholm over Verona Swanigan, 65% to 35%.
Published Aug. 9, 2016
If you are young(ish), headed out on a warm Saturday night and want to go drinking Downtown, you have your choice of four distinctly different areas and crowds to join. As an Uber driver, I spend lots of time in all four places.