An orb glows warmly over the darkened stage. It seems a completely ordinary object, a clock, until you realize it has no hands. The image is appropriate enough for a play about a girl with progeria, a disease causing the body to age at four times its normal ***image1***rate. Time is a primary preoccupation. But the clockface, like the play, is a deceptively normal image that holds some quite extraordinary truths.
Kimberly Akimbo, by David Lindsay-Abaire, is a good play. Its quality has been attested to by, among other entities, the LA Drama Critics Circle. The College of Santa Fe Performing Arts Department has given this work a solid production and achieved a believable sense of life in lower-middle class New Jersey on the stage of the handsome Greer Garson Theater. The players are all College of Santa Fe students with the exception of actress and Broadway vet Etain O'Malley, who plays Kimberly. I was skeptical at first, but the mature O'Malley is ultimately convincing as a 16-year-old in a prematurely aging body. A wide-eyed manner and a plaintive vulnerability coupled with a high speaking voice help her seal the illusion.
The cast in general is extremely competent, if not entirely cohesive throughout. Daniel Flapper strikes a chord as Kimberly's dad, Buddy, an ordinary alcoholic whose life has been cut short in an ordinary way-the responsibility of a new family. The most memorable scenes occur between Kimberly and her father, huddled in his truck on the way to school. Lindsay-Abaire knows things like this, that dads do their best talking in cold cars, their breath mixing with steam from ***image2***pick-up window food.
That the half-sane family does all it can to escape the house is no wonder. Magdeline Zinkey puts in a hilarious turn as the self-centered swearing hypochondriac harridan Patti, Kimberly's mother. She perches on the family home like a foul-mouthed hen and seems to grow ever-larger with her pregnant belly and multiplicity of health complaints.
The world around Kimberly is rocked with spasms of life, but it's all in grim anticipation of her demise, even if the family members caught in the clutches of the situation cannot acknowledge it themselves. But Kimberly knows. The dialogue is raucously funny, the Jersey accents and ambience thick, but Kimberly's fight to be recognized not only as her own person, but as a person with a future and dignity, is the heart of the play.
Kimberly Akimbo has been criticized for lack of depth, but the fact is it simply avoids sentimentality. Sometimes the best way to confront a problem is just to show it. All the better if fantastic entertainment is along for the ride.