[NoHo Arts District, CA] – A NoHo Arts theatre review of “T-O-T-A-L-L-Y!,” written and performed by Kimleigh Smith, directed by Paula Killen, and performed as part of the Whitefire Theatre’s Solofest 2023.
I’ve heard whispers about this show over the years. I see a lot of solo theatre, and it’s a pretty tight community, so when more than a couple of them gives you a wink and a nudge and a “you will love his show’” then you know you’re about to see something very special.
They were absolutely right of course. Kimleigh Smith’s “T-O-T-A-L-L-Y!” is very, very special. It was developed and written by Kimleigh Smith, who is also a rather successful actress and has a company, Embrace Your Cape, with “a mission to share transformational stories in unique ways that change how we see the world and connect with humanity.”
The story of “T-O-T-A-L-L-Y!,” however, is Kimleigh’s story. A young girl. A cheerleader, at the very beginning of her independent life. A freshman in college attending her very first college party, personally invited by the star of the football team, who she already has a huge crush on. She imagines they are destined to be together and is almost incredulous of the attention he gives her. At the party, she is amongst the youngest there and she and her friends are shy and nervous. But the football star quickly picks her out and offers to walk her back home with his friends. He then decides that the night is far from over and asks her to his dorm room to “hang out.” Since his friends are also tagging along and against her better judgment, she agrees and then wakes up the next morning with no memory of the night before.
It takes years for her to remember in fact. So completely did her mind protect her from the truth of her gang rape. But violence like that will seep into your life whether you fully understand it or not and that is exactly what happened to Kimleigh. Depression, self doubt, bad relationships with bad men. A series of unfulfilling jobs, a tendency to keep everyone at arm’s length, and on and on. Rape changes everyone. But through therapy and years and years of self discovery and love, she has made something beautiful out of the ashes of a young girl’s innocence.
This is a story that we’ve heard before, in many different ways. But Kimleigh’s incredible gift of her own lovely, strong, brave self makes this story and this framing of her life, uniquely brilliant.
It’s a terrible thing that happened to her, so it might seem weird when I say that this play filled me full of hope and light and laughter. But it did. It’s not about recrimination or revenge. In fact, the only time we hear about the event and the perpetrators is in the retelling of that night. It’s as if Kimleigh left them behind. Cast them off. Not allowing them to haunt her, to cling to her, to be in control for a moment of who she is now. It took her time to do this of course.
But the strength and the shine and the utterly illuminating presence of Kimleigh is all her own. Her superpower seems to be a light that quite literally fills her and then the story and then the stage and then each and every one in the audience.
I took something bright and glowing with me home, the night I saw her show. A memory of a beautiful strong, sexy, phenomenal woman who gives the gift of triumphant survival. Of victorious survival.
The play is nuanced, hilarious in places and shockingly real in others. It is honest and bold. Incredibly well written, it holds the audience, breathless at moments and on the edge of our seats. Kimleigh is the kind of performer that has that magical indefinable quality that makes you believe everything about her and everything she tells you.
“T-O-T-A-L-L-Y!” honestly one of the best solo shows I have seen…and I’ve seen a lot.
It’s not surprising to me at all that she has a production company, Embrace Your Cape, that specializes in supporting stories that uplift and change our world. She is a powerful human with a gorgeous, graceful talent to connect and I am grateful to have experienced her light.
If you have the chance to see “T-O-T-A-L-L-Y!,” I urge you to take it…it is truly mind-blowingly good.
You can find out more about the fabulous Kimleigh Smith and her company, Embrace Your Cape below.