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 Jan. 19, 2017
Most of the actors had only a nodding acquaintance with the unique sound of Shakespeare's language, sight gags ranged from risque bumping and grinding to pratfalls, and the entire scenery budget was $65 but this production of "The Taming of the Shrew" was plenty funny,
Published Jan. 19, 2017
Dave Begel has long maintained a bromance with Brett Favre forever and long resisted all claims that Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in Packers history. Until now. After the display at the Palace in Dallas, it is now time to put the crown on Rodgers' head.
Published Jan. 17, 2017
It could hardly be more appropriate to our times that The Milwaukee Rep unveils a Pulitzer Prize-winning play about Muslims in America the very week that we are getting a new president who has made Muslims a target of his vitriolic political campaign.
Published Jan. 14, 2017
"Welcome to Bronzeville" is a world premiere at First Stage about the vibrant and exciting neighborhood that existed in Milwaukee. The play can't capture that vibrancy and delivers a performance that is without any excitement.
Published Jan. 13, 2017
When I was a young man in the U.S. Navy, stationed far from my home, I had to borrow $300 from my father in order to pay for an abortion. It's stayed with me since then and I now find myself thinking of it again as new abortion attacks are underway,.
Published Jan. 10, 2017
It's clear that the Milwaukee theater community faces challenges of young artists leaving town in order to find work. How to keep them here is a question that deserves attention and consideration of a variety of ideas that could step that tide.
Published Jan. 5, 2017
Republicans in the Senate and Assembly celebrated their increased stranglehold on Wisconsin politics by smiling with glee over the prospect of being able to do just about anything they want without any real regard for people who might think differently.
Published Jan. 4, 2017
"Sexual chemistry" is not a phrase normally associated with the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "The Sound of Music," but the production at the Marcus Center creates a fully realized Maria, a woman perplexed by her feelings of love.
Published Jan. 3, 2017
There has been no formal announcement yet, but it appears as if another theater company that provides work for young actors and directors in Milwaukee, is about to fold its tent. Soulstice Theatre looks like it's shutting down after 15 years.
Published Dec. 29, 2016
The angle that most columnists take when it comes to their annual New Year's column is to write fanciful resolutions for a variety of celebrities. This year, however, I'm taking the whole thing seriously. My resolutions mean something - and I hope I can stick to them.