Where can I find a production of David Lindsay-Abaire's Kimberly Akimbo in the Philadelphia area?

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Answered by: Janet, An Expert in the Plays and Authors Category
Life’s too short.

Sure, the conclusion is simple, cliché even, but David Lindsay-Abaire's Kimberly Akimbo, mounted by the small but mighty Theatre Horizon in Norristown, could not be further from a cliché. The unique tale of a girl born with an aging disorder takes audiences on an emotional journey, exploring universal themes in the midst of some very unusual circumstances.

The story of Kimberly Akimbo focuses on the Levacos, a blue-collar family of 3 living in Bogota, New Jersey. Dad, Buddy, works as a gas station attendant but spends most of his time guzzling beers at the bar. Pregnant, stay-at-home mom Pattie spends her days recording cassette tapes for posterity and diagnosing herself with all sorts of fatal illnesses. As we watch the daily happenings of the Levaco household unfold, we see that neither parent is too concerned with the needs of 16-year-old Kimberly, their daughter who was born with a disorder that makes her age four and a half times faster than the average person.

Between fast-food runs with Dad, her forgotten 16th birthday, study sessions with classmate Jeff, and enforcing the rules of the “swear jar,” the story focuses on the day-to-day events in this tragic heroine’s statistically last year of life. When Buddy’s sister Debra shows up, fresh from a stint in jail, surprising information about the Levacos’ past in Secaucus surfaces, revealing yet another layer of dysfunction to this already dysfunctional family. Lindsay-Abaire’s story is jam-packed with twists, turns, laughs, and plenty of things to think about long after the play is over.

The genius of Lindsay-Abaire’s script stems from the fact that he trusts audiences to grasp the bleakness of Kimberly’s condition without directly commenting on it. An alcoholic father and a mother who forgets her own child’s birthday is certainly enough to make us cry, yet the playwright steers clear of any melodrama. Instead, he makes us laugh, infusing his play with humor, which is at times, darkly hilarious. Between her lesbian aunt’s illegal schemes, Buddy’s coarse treatment of Kim’s new beau, and Pattie’s oven-mitt covered hands (for her carpel tunnel, of course), Kimberly Akimbo reads as a sitcom in which everyday life is laugh-out-loud funny.

However, the stakes in this play are quite high and as audience members, it is our job to see that underneath the laughter reside some serious questions about life. Thanks to a talented cast and a story lovingly crafted under Matthew Decker’s thoughtful direction, Kimberly Akimbo forces us to look at the fragility of life and what it really means to live it to the fullest.

Maureen Torsney-Weir delivers a stunning performance as 16-year-old Kimberly, capturing the angst of those treacherous teen years in every exasperated look and sarcastic line. Her success is in the balance, bringing both child-like naivete and the wisdom of someone much older to the role. As the disorder pushes the fast-forward button on Kim’s life, we watch how Torsney-Weir copes with her impending mortality while simultaneously dealing with the frivolous cares and worries of her teenage days. Her blossoming romance with Jeff (the nerdy yet adorable Corey Regensburg) perfectly illustrates this strange juxtaposition.

In a rare moment of parental authority, Buddy questions his daughter regarding the physical nature of her and Jeff’s relationship. Unfazed, Kim assures him not to worry – she will not get knocked up because she has already been through menopause. Her matter-of-fact delivery of the line garners laughs but the statement chills, bringing us back to the grim reality of Kim’s illness.

Torsney-Weir has the support of a talented cast of actors to help her tell this story. As Pattie, Marybeth Gorman is appropriately neurotic and endlessly needy. Her grating voice squawks orders at Kim and then whines like a spoiled teen when she does not get her way. In fact, Gorman’s performance often makes it unclear who is mothering who in this play. As Buddy, Rob Kahn injects testosterone, blue-collar gruffness, and a dose of the “every man” into the role. Kahn shows us Buddy’s desire and potential to be a good father, but like so many, his good intentions are often derailed by his own personal demons. Yes, we judge him for his cowardice but we also sympathize with his struggle.

As kooky Aunt Debra, Alex Keiper has sass, crass, and the wisdom of a sage. Oddly enough, Lindsay-Abaire uses the delinquent, scam-artist aunt as the mouthpiece for some of his own musings on mortality. Keiper clearly understands her role in this, and accordingly voices out loud the questions that no one else has the courage to ask. Keiper’s success lies in her ability to ask those questions without preaching or stepping out of the world of the play, a difficult task for an actor but one that she conquers with honest acting and overwhelming spirit.

Other all-stars include set designer, Maura Roche, whose design provides both function and style. Combined with some cleverly choreographed transitions, the passage of time and space are clear, concise, and even fun to watch. With Matthew Decker at the helm, all the elements harmoniously work together to serve this story. Hilarious, poignant, gritty, and brave, the story is an important reminder that while life is indeed too short, we are not dead yet. Like Kim, we must keep living.

If you go, David Lindsay-Abaire's Kimberly Akimbo is playing at Theatre Horizon, located at the Centre Theatre in Norristown. For more information, showtimes, and tickets, check out Theatre Horizon's website, www.theatrehorizon.org.

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