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      Kimberly Akimbo
    To know, know, know Kim

    "Kimberly Akimbo," about a nicely acted title character whose abnormally accelerated physical growth is matched by the declining maturity of those around her, doesn't entirely come together as a play.


    Getting through high school is hard enough — even if you don't look more like the lunch ladies than your classmates. That's the plight of "Kimberly Akimbo's" 16-year-old title character (Marylouise Burke), who's saddled with a disease that makes her age at four and a half times the normal rate.

    Written by: David Lindsay-Abaire.
    Directed by: David Petrarca.
    Cast: Marylouis Burke, John Gallagher Jr., Ana Gasteyer, Jodie Markell, Jake Weber.

    Related links: Official site
    City Center Stage
    131 West 55th St
    Previews start: Jan. 14, 2003
    Feb. 4 - April 6, 2003

    But whatever she might have to endure at school, it can't be much worse than what she faces at home. Dad Buddy (Jake Weber) is a drunk full of broken promises; mom Pattie (Jodie Markell) a self-pitying hypochondriac with bandaged arthritic hands; and Aunt Debra ("Saturday Night Live's" Ana Gasteyer) an ex-con who enlists her niece in her latest illegal scheme. Kimberly's only friend — and best influence — Jeff (John Gallagher Jr.), another teenage outcast, spends his time playing Dungeons & Dragons and making anagrams out of people's names.

    Kimberly has reached the average life expectancy for people with her disease — 16. And not only is she physically older than her parents, she's light years ahead of them emotionally too. To assuage their fear of losing her, they're starting over again by having another baby and relocating from Secaucus to Bogota, N.J. (and they're determined to keep the real reason for the move from Kimberly). One problem: They seem to have forgotten that Kimberly's not dead yet.

    Playwright David Lindsay-Abaire has traipsed over territory littered with dysfunctional families and lovable misfits before, in last season's "Wonder of the World" and "Fuddy Meers," both presented at Manhattan Theatre Club. In the latter he also was teamed with Burke and director David Petrarca, but the results aren't as inspired this time.

    Burke has a great role, but the play never quite comes together. A master of dark-light comedy that reaches farcical proportions, Lindsay-Abaire in his past works featured driven protagonists on manic quests in search of themselves. Kimberly is more a springboard for the insanity around her and, under Petrarca's uneven direction, the ensemble never finds that delicate balance of sharp comic timing and poignant depth of character that the material needs to work.

    Of the supporting cast, Weber and Gallagher fare best at balancing comedy and character. Shouting most of her lines, Gasteyer draws the biggest laughs, but doesn't plunge beneath her character's surface, whereas Markell struggles to create a character within the play's farcical confines (and has awfully well-kept hair for a working-class housewife who can't even wipe her own mouth).

    Although set in the present, the play has an unmistakably '70s feel in Robert Brill's zestfully colored sets and Jason Robert Brown's enchanting music. Nostalgia may in fact be just what those familiar with Lindsay-Abaire's previous plays will long for.

    FEBRUARY 3, 2003

    Reader comments on Kimberly Akimbo:

  • abaire's a charlatan   from Daniel Goldfarb, Jul 1, 2003
  • What crackhead wrote the previous comment?   from Johnny Jansoo, Jun 17, 2004

  • Post a comment on "Kimberly Akimbo"