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A CurtainUp Berkshire Review
Kimberly Akimbo

If you get one A or one B you're just a carrier, but if you get two B's you're screwed. — Kimberly
Debra Jo Rupp (photo credit: Scott Barro)w
All sixteen-year-olds struggle with issues of their identity, independence and place in a complex social structure. For Kimberly Levaco, surrounded by a family of adults in various stages of arrested development, it is the moment of truth; she has reached sixteen and is approaching the end of her normal life span. Though Kimberly suffers from a rare genetic early-aging disease, it is soon apparent that she is far more mature and intelligent than the family with whom she lives in Bogota, New Jersey.

David Lindsay-Abaire's Kimberly Akimbo is a stunningly absurd examination of neglect and self-absorption and though, at times, hysterically funny and bitingly knowing, there are moments of unflinching examination of familial dysfunction and misplaced values.

The Levaco family has just relocated after living in Secaucus and Kimberly's (Debra Jo Rupp,) very pregnant mother (Jessiee Datino) is further incapacitated by double carpal tunnel surgery. Pattie is deliciously vulgar and pathetic as she tries to cope with late stage pregnancy and various ailments. Both Kimberly and her hapless alcoholic father Buddy (Chris Thorn) have to feed and perform intimate tasks, all while Pattie insists she is dying of cancer.

Buddy is an excuse-ridden gas station attendant and it soon becomes obvious that though Kimberly has a life-threatening disease, he has never carried out his promises to take her to any number of amusement and theme parks. In fact, both parents seem oblivious to the fact that it might have been their duty to cram as much pleasure and experience as possible into Kim's diminishing time. Instead, this smart, worldly-wise young woman faces the fact that her parents are so preoccupied with their own neuroses that they have forgotten what may be her last birthday. But neither we nor Kimberly get a chance to pity this plucky kid. The eccentricity of this unpredictable family creates screwball comedic situations which erase any worries about maudlin or over-the-top disease discussions.

When Jeff (Adam Langdon,) a nerdy Asperger-type school mate asks for permission to write a report about her disease, more zaniness in the form of anagrams adds a whimsical nuttiness to this fast-paced unpredictable black comedy. The anagrams of this junior wordsmith are often satirically apt, as when "mother-in-law" becomes "Woman Hitler."

Kimberly is delighted at the reworking of her name to "Cleverly Akimbo". Ostensibly classmates, it soon becomes obvious that Jeff may be the someone Kimberly has hoped for, as improbable as it may seem. Equally lonely and isolated, Jeff is drawn to Kimberly and he is soon involved with her family on a new level. The weird ex-con Aunt Debra (Jessica Savage) has tracked the Levacos to their new home and she carries some juicy family secrets. Her demeanor has just the right combination of cheerful menace as at the end of a sentence her eyes suddenly shift into a blank stare. Debra's hilarious insane con schemes involve the corruption of Kimberly and Jeff. That they are minors does not concern her. In fact, all three adults are so busy worrying that life is passing them by that by comparison Kimberly's situation is barely acknowledged.

Debra Jo Rupp as Kimberly is just the right combination of innocent hope and street-wise sarcasm. Burned too many times to be taken in by the false promises of her family, she nevertheless breaks our hearts when she wistfully pleads , "Can we just be normal for a few minutes? Can you just ask me how school was or something?" She tries to instill a sense of logic into the family's moral abyss with some degree of success. When the clueless Pattie says, "Isn't this nice playing games and chatting about the Holocaust," we get a sense as to the weird core of family values afloat in her scattered mind.

Rupp's touching performance anchors an ensemble cast who work flawlessly together to create this fast-paced and compelling work. Vibrantly directed by Rob Ruggiero, the stage is alive with fluidly moving scenery and confident actors who relentlessly drive the play to a very satisfying conclusion. Scenic designer Timothy Mackabees's deceptively simple set is elegant in its ability to metamorphose into whatever location the script requires; it is dynamically lit by Matt Richards. The costumes designed by Tricia Barsamian add just the right touch to each character's persona, and the jazzy swing music reinforces the upbeat attitude of the remarkable Kimberly.

This is a production where every element of theatre unites to create a very special two hours in an alternate universe. The hilarity is underscored by such poignancy that you may find yourself planning a second visit.

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Kimberly Akimbo
Cast: Debra Jo Rupp (Kimberly) Chris Thorn (Buddy) Jessiee Datino (Pattie) Adam Langdon (Jeff) Jessica Savage (Debra)
Set Design: Timothy Mackabee
Costume Design: Tricia Barsamian
Lighting Design: Matt Richards >BR > Sound Design: Vincent Olivieri
Stage Manager: Pau Valla
Running Time: two hours; one intermission
Barrington Stage Company, St. Germain Theatre, Linden St., Pittsfield, MA
From 6/16/16; opening 6/19/16; closing 7/16/16
Reviewed by Gloria Miller at 6/19/16 performance

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