Poignant, humorous play gives new meaning to ‘coming-of-age’
By GUY D’ASTOLFO
The Oakland Center for the Arts will present the Youngstown premiere of “Kimberly Akimbo” for the next three weekends, beginning Friday.
Set in suburban New Jersey, the play is about Kimberly, a teenager with a rare medical condition that causes her body to age four-and-a-half times faster than normal. When Kimberly and her family flee their home under dubious circumstances, she is forced to re-evaluate her life while contending with a hypochondriac mother, a rarely sober father, a scam-artist aunt, her own mortality and the possibility of first love.
Written by David Lindsay-Abaire, “Kimberly Akimbo” premiered in 2000 and was hailed by The New York Times as “a heartbreaking study of how time wounds everybody.”
The Oakland production is directed by Cleric Costes. It features Molly Galano in the title role and also John Cox, Elizabeth Conrad, Dylan White and Brandy Johanntges.
“Kimberly Akimbo” marks Costes’ debut at the Oakland. His recent directorial credits include co-directing “As You Like It” at Morley Pavilion in Mill Creek Park last summer, and a series of Samuel Beckett short plays at Kent-Trumbull in May. As an actor, he last appeared at the Victorian Players in September in the title role in “Amadeus.”
Costes discussed “Kimberly Akimbo” with The Vindicator in this exchange:
Q. “Kimberly Akimbo” is described as a comedy, but with the lead character having an aging disease, it is has to be sad or poignant. How does it affect the audience?
A. I believe that the best plays have elements of both comedy and drama — a comedy without drama leads to only hollow laughter, and a drama without any elements of comedy quickly becomes melodramatic and tiresome. David Lindsay-Abaire’s script effortlessly balances the poignant moments with moments that will have the audience laughing riotously. It is a testament to the skill of the cast of this show that they’ve been able to walk that line and bring both the tragic and comedic elements of the script out.
Q. Were you eager to direct “Kimberly Akimbo”?
A. This play was presented to me by the Oakland board, who thought it would be a good fit. I read the synopsis and had my doubts. I remember saying to myself, “This sounds like your standard disease-of-the week fare.” But after I read the script, I fell in love with it. It avoids the melodramatic clich s and absolutely defies the expectations of the audience. And I absolutely fell in complete and utter love with the character of Kimberly. The alienation she feels as a teenager is enhanced due to her condition, and it is something that everyone can identify with.
Q. You have assembled a stellar cast. Which role does each member play, and how did you handle the “aging” process?
A. I am eternally grateful to all of my cast members for auditioning for this show — they’re all incredible. Molly Galano plays Kimberly. John Cox portrays Buddy, Kimberly’s alcoholic father. Elizabeth Conrad is Kimberly’s mother, a pregnant hypochondriac. Brandy Johanngtes is Kimberly’s ex-con aunt with far too many get-rich-quick schemes in her pocket. And Dylan White rounds out the cast as Jeff, a teenage classmate of Kimberly. The play takes place around Kimberly’s 16th birthday. There was no need to do any aging effects for Molly [Galano]. What is fascinating to watch, though, is seeing how Molly becomes this 16-year-old girl with attitude and body language.