At first glance, Kimberly Levaco is a normal 16-year-old girl with a precocious mind and a flair for the melodramatic. But look a little closer and you’ll find that although Kimberly wears the part in dress and attitude, hers is not the fresh face of an average teenager, glowing with the vitality of youth. She bears the telling lines and wrinkles of someone older — much, much older — and in David Lindsay-Abaire’s whimsical Kimberly Akimbo, an aged smile and moribund body aren’t the only things Kimberly has to endure.
Not only has Lindsay-Abaire brilliantly endowed his sassy protagonist with a rare, Progeria-like genetic syndrome that physically ages her four and a half times faster than nature, he also surrounds Kimberly with a screwball set of parents and a vagrant aunt who has spent her fair share of time locked up in the pokey.
It’s Kimberly’s sweet sixteenth, and with a life expectancy of precisely sixteen years, the girl has already experienced menopause before her first kiss and is eager to heat things up with her crush, the anagram-obsessed Dungeons and Dragons master Jeff McCracken. How will she escape a house full of lunatics to experience life outside of Bogota, New Jersey before it’s too late?
Lindsay-Abaire, whose other kooky contributions include Wonder of the World, Fuddy Meers, and A Devil Inside, drifts off into unlikely territory with a solution to a dilemma he created himself. Kasi Campbell’s intuitive direction fused with hysterical performances from a spectacular party of five makes the trip so raucously funny that you never fully mind the mad dash for a finish.
Although she doesn’t look anywhere close to achieving the elderly appeal of seventy-two years that the setup demands, Helen Hedman seems perfectly cast in the title role. James Flanagan is thoroughly convincing as the restless kid who courts her with clever anagrams (try “large fervent demon ” for federal government).
Sherri Edelen is hilarious as mother Pattie, a whimpering hypochondriac recovering from carpal tunnel surgery (a manifestation from sixteen years of plowing the cream gun into Sunshine Cupcakes), while Bruce Nelson is so natural on stage as Buddy, Kimberly’s beer-guzzling father, you ultimately forget he is acting. Finally, the wickedly delightful Kerri Rambow ensures Aunt Debra is a full manic nutcase.
Set designer Milagros Ponce de Leon leaves plenty of open space for Campbell’s broad staging, and her tidy kitchen for the Levacos adds a surreal confluence of familiar appliances with the ultra-mod ’60s feel of a Doris Day flick. Alex Cooper’s lighting and Chas Marsh’s sound design create a contemporary ambience suitable for Lindsay-Abaire’s eccentric world.
Kimberly Akimbo presents a frisky little exploration of time and temperament that pokes around a deeper message. “You better not be building a bomb down there! ” Pattie screams at Aunt Debra, who has just lugged the corner mailbox into the basement. Little does she realize that the only thing ticking is the time bomb in her daughter, quietly waiting to expire.