To be honest, I didn’t look forward to seeing Riverbend’s current show, a play, not a musical. But, Kimberly Akimbo took me complete by surprise as a truly delightful production.
Kimberly Akimbo centers around Kimberly, a soon to be sixteen year old girl with that disease that ages your body four-and-a-half years for every year of your life. And, while that’s an interesting subject, it’s not the focus of the show.
Instead, the story follows life with her dysfunctional family.
The show is billed as a dark comedy. It’s subject matter lends itself to a darker, uncomfortable humor. However, almost the entire cast performs their roles with a bit of a smile on their faces, knowing the show is funny. That makes it less dark, which isn’t a bad thing, in my opinion. It lightens things up, making the dark comedy easier to take in as a comedy. It’s been a while since I laughed so much during a live stage performance.
What’s key to the success of any production of Kimberly Akimbo is the actress playing Kimberly. You have to cast an older woman to play a teenage girl. It would be easy to overact and not be believable, which would ruin the show. Fortunately, Peggy Freeman is Kimberly in RTC’s production and she’s perfect. Not only is her vocal inflection and tone spot on for a teenager, but her body language is, too. She’s absolutely believable as a 15 year old girl. And, she’s darling, to boot. You really like her Kimberly, which helps to invest in the show, wanting to know what’s in store for her.
While Freeman is the focus of the production, it’s Denise Yoder who steals the show, in my opinion. Never have I seen Yoder so free and comfortable in a role. She doesn’t hold back in this performance as Debra, Kimberly’s highly dysfunctional aunt. Yoder seems to be thoroughly enjoying the role, which makes it easy to enjoy it along with her. This is, hands down, the best performance I’ve ever seen out of Yoder. Bravo.
While Yoder stands out, that’s not to say the rest of the cast is short on talent. On the contrary, the production is perfectly cast, with not a weak performance in the bunch. Dustin Oliver has the right youthfulness and “outcastness” about him, making him oh so lovable. Jaci Entwistle’s pregnant, always injured Pattie is full of humor, garnering many a laugh from the audience. But, Aaron Sullivan’s Buddy is perhaps the most developed character on stage. Sullivan fully grasps the internal conflict of someone who wants to escape his not as expected life by drowning himself in alcohol and a father who wants to do right by his daughter.
Kimberly Akimbo is staged at the Village Theatre in the Village of East Davenport. And, while there is a stage, the cast is often not on it. A couple of the sets are on the floor, in front of the stage and at the feet of the audience. It’s ideal for quick scene changes. And, the director, Allison Collins-Elfline made a smart choice in using the room. Side doors lead the basement of the house or the fridge or another part of the library. This production makes excellent and impressive use of the space in which it is staged.
I can’t recommend Kimberly Akimbo to you enough. It’s truly delightful and thoroughly enjoyable. It’s a shame if this weekend doesn’t sell out. Go see this show!
I must warn you, though. There is a lot of strong language, so this isn’t one to take the kiddies to see. Adults only.
Kimberly Akimbo runs tonight and tomorrow night at 8 p.m. at the Village Theatre in the Village of East Davenport.