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16 going on 72

BY JUSTUS FLAIR | OCTOBER 16, 2014 5:00 AM

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A 72-year-old sits bundled up in a brightly colored parka, ice skates at her feet as she yells at her 40-something drunkard father for forgetting to pick her up on time. Afflicted with a rare disease that causes her to age 4.5 times as fast as normal, 16-year-old Kimberly is physically a senior citizen.

Riverside Theater, 213 N. Gilbert St., will begin performances of David Lindsay-Abaire’s Kimberly Akimbo at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Shows will continue through Nov. 2.

Riverside Theater cofounder and Artistic Director Jody Hovland stars in the title role.

“Playing a teenager is just a blast,” she said. “[Kimberly] has advanced beyond her literal age, but she’s still a teenager. I think what I’ve rediscovered is that our inner teenager is never far from the surface. It’s just fun. Day to day, we don’t get to do those things anymore.”

More than just being fun, Kimberly is a challenge, serving as the moral center and, despite outward appearance, the most normal character of the play.

“Kimberly Akimbo is the same sort of class of plays that Lindsay-Abaire did in the early 2000s,” Hovland said. “There is one character in each of these plays that has distortions of some kind — in Kimberly Akimbo, it’s a teenager who has this rapidly advancing disease. They’re the best communicators. They speak to the audience in terms of setting a normal behavior. Everyone around them is much more exaggerated and extreme than they are.”

When your companions are a criminal aunt, a hypochondriac mom, an alcoholic dad, and a nerdy high-school boy, maybe it isn’t that hard to be the most normal one on stage.

“The family is funny and exaggerated and uses colorful language,” Hovland said. “I think anyone can relate to an aunt or uncle who’s a little bit on the outrageous side.”

These extreme characters make for hilarity, which Hovland said is “very, very delicate” on stage.
“There’s a funny saying about dying is easy, comedy is hard,” she said. “It requires technical skill — timing and understanding of how the comedy works — but it also requires you to start from a place of delicacy, to work from the heart. Otherwise, it doesn’t start from a place of humanity and won’t invite the audience in. So while you have outrageously funny plot lines, you also have a poignancy of deeply human delicacies — being lonely, falling in love for the first time. I think in the end it’s important that we care about the characters that we’ve spent the evening with.”

That connection to the characters, the passion he felt towards them, is what motivated University of Iowa junior Frankie Rose to audition for the show.

“I loved the story and the combination of comedy and drama that David Lindsay-Abaire so artfully melds together,” he said. “I hope audiences will take away the idea that everyone is lonesome, but no one is ever alone. That is one of my favorite themes of the story.”

Riverside Theater’s Resident Artist and cofounder Ron Clark said he is glad Rose decided to audition. Riverside, he said, is a bit off the beaten path for university students who have so many opportunities to perform but not at a professional level such as at Riverside.

Adding a professional credit to his name is not the only perk of performing for Rose; he said he looks forward to seeing the audience members’ reactions and to share this experience with them.

Hovland echoed his anticipation.

“We all come to the theater with different sets of experiences," she said. “I think the opportunity to sit in a room with others and suspend disbelief for a couple of hours and enter a world that may or may not look anything like yours, while also being afforded a laugh, is a special opportunity.” 


THEATER
Kimberly Akimbo
Where: Riverside Theater, 213 N. Gilbert
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Oct. 23-26, Oct. 30-Nov. 1, 2 p.m. Oct. 19 & 26, Nov. 2


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