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THEATER REVIEW

Sage advice from a girl 16 going on 60

'Akimbo' at the Victory retains its original humor and poignancy.

March 01, 2007|David C. Nichols | Special to The Times

"LIKE progeria, without the dwarfism," says the heroine of "Kimberly Akimbo," matter-of-factly addressing her medical condition. She could easily say, "Like a simile for our tenuous existence." David Lindsay-Abaire's bittersweet allegory of a teenager with rapid-aging disease receives a buoyant, heart-tugging Victory Theatre Center staging.

It unfolds within an adult storybook ethos as warped as designer Gary Randall's fanciful set, which suits the insidious precis. The silver-haired senior sitting under a tree in Bogota, N.J., is Kimberly Levaco (the mercurial Judy Jean Berns). Her 16th birthday approaches, a potentially terminal milestone. The middle-aged man beside her is Buddy (Joe O'Connor), her alcoholic father, whose jocular nonchalance fools neither of them.

Pattie (Kathleen Bailey), Kimberly's pregnant, blithely profane mother, pitches denial the other way, appropriating Kimberly's prognosis for her hypochondriac self. As virtual 60-year-old Kimberly connects with geeky, anagram-spouting Jeff (Patrick Rogers) in the library, in comes itinerant Debra (Sharon Johnston), Pattie's ne'er-do-well sister. From here, Lindsay-Abaire sends his plot wheeling into the space between hilarity and pathos, ending on a lovely note of carpe diem.

To keep the stakes askew, director Maria Gobetti adroitly maintains tempos worthy of Preston Sturges. Tom Ormeny's lights, Dawn DeWitt's costumes and William Folger's sound are sharp, and the ensemble is expert.

Berns, ideally cast, mixes mournful mall rat and hangdog sage into seriocomic gold. O'Connor and Bailey make bravura yet nuanced dysfunctional parents. Rogers is priceless, a male equivalent of America Ferrera's Betty Suarez, and Johnston, superbly deadpan, swipes every scene.

The pace extends the odd lesser beat, Pattie's climactic Freudian slip rushes by, but these are minor quibbles. "Kimberly Akimbo," which lands its message of mortality past sitcom whimsy through sheer force of quirky will, is uncommonly funny and ruefully wonderful.

weekend@latimes.com

*

`Kimberly Akimbo'

Where: Victory Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank

When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays

Ends: March 25

Price: $24 to $30

Info: (818) 841-5421

Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes

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