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 May 27, 2016
There is something about live theater that provides room for the little things in life, things that don't come with trumpets but with little bells, things that don't move mountains but may move the soul.
Published May 26, 2016
Charlie Sykes has long been a star of conservative politics, having built a kind of cottage industry mixing radio, television, books and his own peculiar brand of journalism. He may now be part of "The Mainstream Media."
Published May 26, 2016
A kind of social media pandemonium got underway Wednesday when Viswa Subbaraman announced he was resigning as the artistic director at Skylight Music Theatre. The board will take its time, however, finding a replacement.
Published May 25, 2016
No matter how it gets spun, Milwaukee's performing arts community took a severe hit Wednesday when Viswa Subbaraman announced he was leaving his post as artistic director of the Skylight Music Theatre.
Published May 24, 2016
The Wisconsin theater season generally begins in early summer when The American Players Theatre opens in Spring Green, shortly after the previous Milwaukee season comes to an end in spring. The 2015-16 season is now over and it's time for Dave Begel's annual list of the best plays of the season.
Published May 21, 2016
Skylight's production of Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Pirates of Penzance" delivered a rollicking and laugh-filled first act. As for the second act? Unfortunately, that's where the Skylight's season finale ran out of gas.
Published May 20, 2016
There are rare moments in the life of an arts organization when something happens that is a stamp of its style and the core belief that makes it who it is. The Milwaukee Ballet unfurled a moment just like that Thursday night with "Alice (in wonderland)."
Published May 19, 2016
Demond Means, a skilled and accomplished educator, is a guy who deserves some sympathy for being caught between a rock and a hard place as he tries to move the rock. He faces tough opponents in reform efforts.
Published May 18, 2016
Somebody somewhere needs to sit me down in a corner and explain why the City of Milwaukee needs a new "People's flag" to replace the one we've had for over 60 years.
Published May 17, 2016
Septime Webre is about to step down after 17 years as artistic director of the prestigious Washington Ballet. Before then, however, he is in Milwaukee to direct his "Alice (in wonderland)" with the Milwaukee Ballet.