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Awkward Akimbo

Winding Road Theatre’s Kimberly Akimbo suffers connection issues

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Winding Road Theater Ensemble has mounted a wonderfully quirky play, Kimberly Akimbo, by David Lindsay-Abaire, even employing a couple of folks involved with a production a few years ago on Live Theatre Workshop's Etcetera late night stage. Leslie J. Miller directed that production, as she does here, and Peg Peterson tackles the role of Kimberly, as she did five years ago.

So you'd think Miller and Peterson would rock this rendition. Alas, that is not the case.

When it kicks off, the production shows promise. It's an intriguing and offbeat script and the set-up compels curiosity.

Due to a congenital disease Kimberly is a 16 year old in a 65 year old's body. Sounds peculiar and promising, right? It will mess with our minds and reveal something new and interesting, right?

Her parents are really screwed up, but rather hilariously so. Her father (Richard Gremel) drinks too much and her mother (Amanda Gremel) is pregnant. If that weren't burden enough, she can't use her hands because she has carpal tunnel syndrome. Throughout the play she develops (so she claims) diabetes, breaks a foot and chips a tooth. Gremel, who recently wowed in LTW's No Way to Treat a Lady, gives us a terrific Pattie. As much as we get to know anybody in this play, we do her; and we get her because she is credibly grounded in a well-crafted character.

Carley Elizabeth Preston also delights us with a pretty outrageous Debra, Pattie's, um, unconventional, sister. She has just gotten out of prison and is trying to track down her erstwhile family, because they have moved without telling her where they've gone. She's got some plans, illegal, of course, to make a fortune, and she tries to get Kimberly involved, along with Jeff (Evander A. Gaines), Kimberly's schoolmate, who sees beyond Kimberly's old body and nurtures hopes of first love. But the hope of a curious, offbeat play that offers insight into something more never quite delivers. The production is like an ill-fated macramé project with strings and twine left dangling or knotted unintentionally, so much so that when the lights go down at the end, we don't know it's the end. That's how disconnected we are from what is happening on stage. The cast comes out and sits on wooden blocks for their curtain call and waits for us to start applauding. Ouch.

It's the scenes, specifically, that are disconnected. Although there are some very funny moments in the first act, by intermission the play gets lost. It's easy to say, well, they haven't found their footing yet, being opening night and all.

So the second act opens and things have taken a turn, and that calls for even more definition and cohesion. Maybe the show was under-rehearsed, or maybe some of the actors weren't quite skilled enough to flesh out their characters or maybe it's something else alltogether, but this thing starts bouncing all over the place, losing whatever through-line might have been there, so that the last scene makes little sense at all in relation to what we have just seen. As the run continues, I hope they will find the glue that will hold everything together, but it just wasn't working opening night.

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