What’s it like to be a sixteen-year old and have already gone through menopause? Sound impossible, or at least improbable? Well, as displayed in Pulitzer Prize winning David Lindsay-Abaire’s play, ‘KIMBERLY AKIMBO,’ now getting a staging at convergence-continuum, such an anomaly is not impossible.
Progeria is a rare, fatal, genetic childhood condition characterized by an appearance of accelerated aging.. Signs of the hereditary illness include growth failure, aged-looking skin, and stiffness of joints. Those with Progeria die at an average age of thirteen.
Don’t get the idea that this play is a downer because it deals with illness. There are a lot of laugh lines and situations. The experience may be a downer, but it’s not because of the illness…it’s a reaction to sharing time with this neurotic and dysfunctional group of characters. If anything, the person with the illness is probably the most psychologically healthy person on stage.
‘KIMBERLY AKIMBO’ concerns a lonely teenager who is a victim of progeria. She is trapped inside the frail physical body of an elderly woman. Jeff, one of her classmates, escapes from his hellish life, which includes living with a widowed drunken father and a drug addicted brother, by doing anagrams. He is a social misfit who wants to use the topic of Kimberly’s disease for his science report. The two form an attachment that allows each to have someone in their lives other than the members of their dysfunctional families, thus, gaining a sense of normalcy.
Kimberly’s father, Buddy, is an alcoholic who works at a gas station. Her insensitive and selfish mother, Pattie, is a pregnant hypochondriac with a foul mouth and a deep secret. Pattie’s sister, Debra, is a homeless lesbian whose get-rich schemes get her in constant trouble with the law.
The play is well-written and the concept and the plot development lead to a high level of audience interest.
Convergence-continuum’s production, under the direction of Clyde Simon, doesn’t quite get all the empathy of the words, but works on its own level. The acting doesn’t always accent the characters’ psychological underpinnings. The lines and story concepts give us hints, but neither Tom Kondilas (Buddy), whose words often sound flat and memorized, nor Amy Bistok-Bunce, who screams almost every one of her lines, helps us to understand their underlying pain. It’s a simple rule of acting…if the actors feign and don’t really feel, the audience doesn’t empathize.
Marcia Mandell has the difficult task of making Kimberly both human and a victim of circumstances. She doesn’t always succeed. There is too much “old” lady and too little, 16-year old.
On the other hand, Scott Gorbach, he of slight body and sensitive nature, is right on-target as Jeff. Lauren Smith gives the right angry tone and physicality to the macho-lesbo aunt.
Clyde Simon and Jim Valore’s set design is excellent, creating five different settings on the tiny convergence stage.
Capsule Judgement: ‘KIMBERLY AKIMBO’ is a thought provoking play which gets an acceptable, but not a fully developed production, at convergence-continuum. It’s worth seeing.
Roy Berko, who is a life-long Clevelander, is a Renaissance man. Believing the line in Robert Frost’s poem “Road Not Taken,” each time he comes to a fork in the road, he has taken the path less traveled. He holds degrees, thought the doctorate from Kent State, Univeristy of Michigan and The Pennsylvania State University. His present roles, besides husband and grandfather, are professor, crisis counselor, author and entertainment reviewer… Read Roy Berko’s complete bio here