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. 19, 2014
All In Productions is a new theater company that made its debut with a wonderful production of "The Last 5 Years." The musical is a romantic and intelligent story of a relationship, with one side told from the end to the the beginning and the other side telling the story in reverse
Published Dec. 18, 2014
The latest application for Silk Exotic to open a strip club in Walker's Point has been turned down again. But there is plenty of evidence that the committee had already made the decision before the public hearing began. This battle is not over.
Published Dec. 16, 2014
How do you explain why a hot, successful team like the Green Bay Packers lose to the Buffalo Bills when there is so much at stake? It's a complicated answer, but it isn't just statistics or even motivation that seem to be the problem. A loss like that may not even be avoidable at some point.
Published Dec. 14, 2014
The sixth edition of "Who Killed Santa" by the Umbrella Group has become a highlight of the holiday season in Milwaukee. But unlike almost all the other traditions, this one not only takes the gloves off, it never even had any gloves. If you like your humor both funny and raunchy, this show is just for you.
Published Dec. 13, 2014
A 50-year-old play about race seems like a perfect fit for the discussions raging across American today. And while the play has lessons, they get lost in too many amateur moments in the production by World's Stage Theatre Company.
Published Dec. 11, 2014
"A Christmas Carol" is a story well over 110 years old but it still has a magic and the MilwaukeeRep manages to find new pieces to keep the audience delighted. It is running for the 39th consecutive year at The gorgeous Pabst Theater.
Published Dec. 11, 2014
Cases in New York, Ferguson and Cleveland are getting a whole lot more press than the case of Dontre Hamilton here in Milwaukee, It sure seems like his story deserves to be right up there with the others.
Published Dec. 10, 2014
This is the season when thousands of people try to do something special for those less fortunate. There are lots of good causes out there, but a tiny South Side church runs programs for the homeless and it has a very special fundraiser coming up.
Published Dec. 9, 2014
Marquette has always had a pretty good basketball program but there is something about the whole thing that doesn't inspire love. As a matter of fact, in some quarters, it's very easy to hate the Golden Eagles.
Published Dec. 5, 2014
Hillary Clinton wants to be president and somebody thought they ought to write a country song about it all. The song stands no chance of finding it's way onto the Billboard charts and is really the most trite example of country music. They ought to be ashamed.