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 she’ll laugh, but only if it’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.
That’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 – 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 – 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 he’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 Kimberly’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 she’s really got.
The remaining two members of the cast are both up to the demands.
Ryan Krueger plays Kimberly’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 Kimberly’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 it’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 Dec. 3, 2013
Has football changed so much that when your starting quarterback goes down you might as well toss your chips on the felt and walk away from the table?
Published Nov. 30, 2013
Christmas stories need a moment to galvanize an audience and make the story a memorable one, maybe bring some tears and possibly make people think a little differently about the holiday. Something like George Bailey getting the money. Or when Santa proves to be the real thing in "Miracle on 34th Street." On that score - and on every other - "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" hits the mark.
Published Nov. 28, 2013
Thanksgiving is here, so here's some of what Dave Begel is thankful for, not just today, but most of the time.
Published Nov. 27, 2013
During Ryan Braun's news conference, he talked about how he wasn't going to get into specifics about what had happened and that he was only focused on moving forward. The problem with that answer to questions from reporters is that it makes Braun continue to look like he's a liar.
Published Nov. 26, 2013
I know this is the season when we are supposed to be thankful for stuff. And I want to play, too. I'm thankful this Green Bay Packers season is almost over and we can all get on with fixing things for next year.
Published Nov. 24, 2013
There are a lot of different things you can expect when you go to the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, but you would never expect this. A ballet. Right on the stage of the Quadracci Powerhouse. And with "Noises Off," a farce written by Michael Frayn and directed by KJ Sanchez, the Rep has staged a show that has everything that a great ballet has, except the music.
Published Nov. 24, 2013
A frequent pitfall for playwrights that write comedies is a temptation to wind things up at the end with some meaningful reform for the comics that turns them into serious human beings. Most often those attempts end up being sappy and sending an audience home with decidedly mixed feelings wondering whether they were supposed to be laughing all that time. Nothing like that plagues "Things Being What They Are."
Published Nov. 23, 2013
Go ahead and pick any adjective you want. Not one of them - or all of them - can possibly do justice to the glorious production of "Les Misérables" that opened Friday night at the Skylight Music Theatre. But blessed may come close for those lucky enough to see it. After it was over, I felt blessed.
Published Nov. 22, 2013
Writing a play is a difficult proposition just by itself. Then transferring the play from the page to the stage adds yet another layer of potential - and problems - to the process. All of this is important background information because Thursday night was the premiere of "The Old Garde," a play written by veteran Milwaukee journalist Bruce Murphy, and produced and directed by Mark Bucher at his Boulevard Theatre.
Published Nov. 21, 2013
As hard as this might be to believe, it is a distinct possibility that Paul Ryan and Scott Walker will face off for the Republican party's presidential nomination.