KPBS AIRDATE: January 23, 2004
It sounds like a Movie of the Week. A young girl has progeria, a congenital condition that makes her age 4 1/2 times faster than average. Her expected lifespan is 16 years. We meet her on the eve of her post-menopausal 16th birthday. Seems like a pretty depressing story, huh? Well, there is a dark underside. But David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Kimberly Akimbo” is an uproarious comedy. It’s about family, among other things, and in one of the clever ironies of the play, as Kimberly ages, her relatives seem to decline in maturity.
They’re a pack of wackos to begin with. Her dad’s a well-intentioned, alcohol-addled breaker of promises. Her mom’s a self-pitying, pill-popping, pregnant hypochondriac. Her intriguingly certifiable aunt is a truth-telling ex-con who’s planning another scam. And then there’s Jeff, Kim’s classmate and love interest, a nerdy word-freak who creates anagrams out of everyone’s names. He rearranges ‘Kimberly Levaco’ into ‘Cleverly Akimbo.’ And indeed she is. With hands metaphorically on her hips, she faces her crumbling world with wit and intelligence.
All these delicious eccentrics spring radiantly to life in the magnificent and hilarious 6th@Penn Theatre production. Director Delicia Turner-Sonnenberg does her best work ever, masterfully maintaining a glorious balance between sharp, edgy humor and poignant depth of character. We really come to care about these blue-collar, New Jersey misfits. And it’s easy, with a well-tuned quintet of outstanding performances.
Matt Scott is terrific as the affably spineless, pathetic dreamer of a Dad; Jo Anne Glover is pitch-perfect as the self-serving whiner of a Mom; Liv Kellgren brings ultra-high energy to the manipulative, hyperactive aunt; and Jason Connors is side-splitting as the smart, sensitive, dorky Jeff. But it’s Kim, in the stellar and heart-breaking performance of Linda Castro, who anchors the play with her sad eyes, quippy comebacks and incisive exploration of life and love. In the brief span of the play, she survives all the angst of adolescence: a schoolgirl crush, cruel classmates, clueless parents, rejection, embarrassment and betrayal. But unlike most teens, she also has to deal with familial denial of her impending death.
To contain all these characters and emotions, Jerry Sonnenberg has designed a marvelously malleable turntable set, which morphs ingeniously into multiple locations. Karen Filijan’s lighting and Jennifer Gittings’ costumes strike just the right note for the quirky proceedings. At the end of this ‘seize the day’ fable, Kimberly, easily the most grounded and evolved person onstage, finds happiness, escape, self-awareness and love. In her off-the-wall universe, there’s as much heart as hilarity, and you’d be nuts not to spend an evening with these lovable lunatics.
©2004 Patté Productions Inc.