Also see Tim's review of Aspects of Love
In some ways, Kimberly Levaco is a typical modern teenage girl. Her main mode of expression is eye-rolling sarcasm. She spends most of her time sulking. She reacts angrily to a world where she feels she doesn't fit in. And she's embarrassed (justifiably, in this case) by her parents. But there's one thing that sets Kimberly apart from other kids her age: she suffers from a rare disease that makes her age at four and a half times the normal rate. So now she looks to be over sixty, but she still has the anxious energy of a sixteen-year-old. And her disease has given her a life expectancy of sixteen.
Despite its dark premise, David Lindsay-Abaire's Kimberly Akimbo is a comedy. And it's not a depressing one eitherit's a zany one, filled with absurd characters and smart, ironic dialogue. Theatre Horizon's new production isn't perfect, but for the most part it's a lighthearted and appealing romp. And at its center is a marvelous performance by Maureen Torsney-Weir that makes this off-kilter universe seem real.
Kimberly's disease may not be ordinary, but in her world, nothing is; at one point she even pleads with her mother, "Mom, can we just be normal for a few minutes?". Mom smokes and drinks even though she's nine months pregnant, and is convinced that she has cancer or diabetes or something. Dad spends his days as a cashier at the Chevron station and his nights drinking, leading Mom to say wistfully of him, "I always thought he was gonna be somebody." Aunt Debra is a homeless lesbian who is fresh out of prisonand the fraud scheme she has just cooked up seems destined to land her back there. Compared to the rest of her family, Kimberly may be the youngest, but she's also the most mature. No wonder she looks the way she does.
Torsney-Weir gives Kimberly just the right mixture of petulance, spunk, biting wit, and acute intelligence. Kimberly Akimbo is worth seeing for her performance alone. But of her co-stars, only Corey Regensburg, as a nerdy classmate who takes anxiety medication and plays Dungeons and Dragons, unfailingly hits the right comic tone. As the dangerous aunt, Alex Keiper is more cuddly than intimidating. Rob Kahn, as the father, seems more confused than drunk. And Marybeth Gorman's pregnant mother seems, aside from her belly, a bit flat. The net result is that director Matthew Decker's production is inconsistent: at times it seems like a great comedy, at other times merely a good idea for a comedy.
Maura Roche's set design adds to the sense of fun. It's full of panels and doors that pop out to reveal windows, tables, and kitchen cabinets, and it's dominated by a plaid pattern that mostly looks conventionaluntil it warps at a very significant place.
Kimberly Akimbo is a quirky play, and sometimes it's a little too quirky for its own good. But when Theatre Horizon's production is at its bestwhich is whenever Torsney-Weir gets to dominate a sceneit's a real delight.
Kimberly Akimbo runs through October 2, 2011, and is presented by Theatre Horizon at the Centre Theater, 208 DeKalb Street, Norristown, Pennsylvania. Ticket prices are $29, with discounts available for seniors and students, and may be purchased by calling the box office at 610-283-2230, or online at www.theatrehorizon.org.