Kimberly Akimbo puts the fun in dysfunction
by Shirley Lorraine
To the consistent delight of Ventura County theater audiences, Santa Paula Theater Center isn’t afraid to take chances with lesser known works. Opening their 2017 season is Kimberly Akimbo by Pulitzer prize winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire. The unusual two-act comedy presents an inside look into a family filled with dysfunction, medical mystery and quirks that somehow work for them despite their many differences.
Kimberly, beautifully characterized by Nancy Solomons, is a typical teen with a rare condition which causes her to age several times faster than normal. Although atypical in physical appearance, she struggles with issues every teen does, including infatuation. Her chosen subject is Jeff (Trent Trachtenberg), a classmate who finds her fascinating.
Home life is strained with Kimberly’s very pregnant and highly unhinged mother Pattie (Julie Fergus) and put-upon father (Brian Harris) as they fairly unsuccessfully cope with their thread-bare relationship. Adding to the overall upheaval is the arrival of Pattie’s sister Debra (Cynthia Killion), recently out of prison and a schemer of the first order. Debra seeks to involve both Kimberly and the unsuspecting Jeff in a scam she wants to run out of the family’s basement. The three adults bounce off each other like ping-pong balls throughout. All are a delight to watch in full swing.
Directed by Taylor Kasch with a deft hand, Akimbo presents the odd characters with heart and empathy. All the characters are well defined and played to their utmost. The ensemble melds superbly while maintaining their individual characterizations. They have no need to reach for laughs – playing it straight enhances the humor in their sincerity. Adults will enjoy the myriad layers of complexity involved in the rapid-fire dialogue. However, due to frank language and adult themes, the play is not recommended for children.
Scenes between Kimberly and Jeff are sweet, innocent and down to earth, embodying the wonder and the angst of the teen years. Pattie and husband Buddy spar like verbal prizefighters, both claiming a loss. Off in her own world, Debra sparkles with creative fireworks that ultimately fizzle and sputter. Undaunted, she pushes on.
It doesn’t take long to see that the medically challenged Kimberly is really the only member of the family with intact intellect. This element makes the story all the more poignant as Kimberly provides the glue to keep a sense of normalcy in the household. Strange how life works sometimes.
The 2017 season starts off with a bang and will be followed by more offerings to stimulate discussion and controversy including Outside Mullingar, a stage production of The Birds (remember the Hitchcock film?) and Becky’s New Car. The year ends with a radio theater adaptation of It’s A Wonderful Life. Season tickets are available now. Buy early to choose your seats.
through March 19. Friday & Saturday eves 8 PM, Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
125 S. Seventh Street, Santa Paula
Adults $24, Students and Seniors $22. Not recommended for children.