Friday, November 04, 2011

A Little "Akimbo" Gush

My wife and I snuck out to see “Kimberly Akimbo” last night and I was glad we did. It’s an odd little story and I was more impressed with both “Fuddy Meers” and “Rabbit Hole” in terms of the script. What David Lindsay-Abaire does with this piece, though, is provide some fairly delicious acting challenges for talented people to dig into.

And to take on those challenges, director Anna Johnson pulled together an exceptional cast. There are many criteria one can use to evaluate a cast. Here’s a simple one: 2 out of the 5 cast members have received RTCC awards, 4 out of the 5 have been nominated. Clearly, these are people that have done notable work in the past.

There is plenty to applaud about this production (Terrie Powers’ set being a wonder of making a small space embody at least 4 different locations) and about the performances of the people you’d expect to be great (aforementioned nominees). But one of the most delightful components of this show for me was the fantastic performance by Matthew Mitchell as Kimberly’s geeky suitor, Jeff. Even without considering the 180 degree difference between this character and the one he played in “Legacy of Light” last season, Mitchell excells here by totally disappearing into this performance. As my lovely wife so succinctly put it afterwards, this characterization seems built thoroughly from the inside out. Every aspect of Mitchell’s performance – voice, posture, affect, mannerisms – was consistent and worked together to project a truly three dimensional character.

Johnson reinforces the quality of this performance with the help of costume designer Lily Lamberta and I expect Mitchell benefitted from having such talented fellows around him to work with, particularly Irene Zeigler who manages a wonderful balancing act as Kimberly (her scene in the “grandmother’s” outfit was a genius bit of compounding acting dissonance – an older actress playing a young character dressed older but not really playing older…). Still, put that aside and you’re still left with a singularly impressive performance, one I may start using as a benchmark for supporting performances for the rest of the season.

So there are something like 2 nights left of this show’s run so, if you haven’t seen it, I’d recommend doing so. Even if Mitchell doesn’t wow you like he did me, you’re sure to find something to admire and enjoy in the work of Zeigler, Richard Koch, Debra Wagoner, and Jill Bari Steinberg. Each is given a beguiling opportunity with their role and each makes the most of it.

PS: I'm not ignoring the news announced by Richmond Shakespeare yesterday, just haven't had time to fully process it. Good luck in all of your future endeavors, Mr. Mudge! You've done some amazing things in this town.


Irene Ziegler said...

Matt Mitchell's understanding of this character was evident in his audition, and it was great to watch him layer it with humor, pathos, and intelligence. I would pay to see this young actor in a walk-on. And that's not the alcohol talking. I mean, it is, but I'll feel the same way in the morning.

philcrosby said...

Matt will be appearing at Richmond Triangle Players beginning on February 22 in our Acts of Faith entry, "Next Fall," also surrounded by an amazing cast (Dawn Westbrook, Devis Riva, Chris O'Neill, Georgia Rogers Farmer, Barry Pruitt) and again directed by the amazing Anna Johnson.