Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

June 28, 2016

Kimberly Akimbo

Barrington Stage Co., Pittsfield, MA
through July 16, 2016
by Jarice Hanson

Director Rob Ruggiero has crafted a delightful production of David Lindsay-Abaire’s dysfunctional family in “Kimberly Akimbo.” He gets plenty of help from a group of actors who seem to delight in the ensemble work necessary to make this cock-eyed play work, and a production team that shares his vision for a play that moves fast with sets, lighting, and music all keeping the momentum going.

A large part of the success goes to the talent of Debra Jo Rupp, an actress with a likability factor so high that it’s off the charts. In her portrayal of Kimberly, the teenager with a genetic disease that causes her to age at an accelerated rate, Rupp’s small frame ages from gawky to elderly. Her face registers the successful career Rupp has had in decades of character and leading roles she’s had, but her youthful voice is one of her gifts, and she uses it effectively to portray Kimberly’s unique view of the world. People with Kimberly’s condition rarely live much beyond sixteen, so the audience wants a happy ending. But will they get it?

Kimberly has some major obstacles, beside the fact that her body is aging so rapidly. Her father Buddy, (Chris Thorn) is an unreliable alcoholic. Her mother, Pattie (Jessiee Datino) is pregnant and a hypochondriac. Her Aunt Debra (Jessica Savage) is a criminal who ropes Kimberly and her nerdy classmate Jeff (charmingly played by Adam Langdon) into a scheme that drives much of the story. And despite how different each character is, there are moments of pure connection and delight among them. The adults are like children, and the children become adults.

The author sets the action in present-day New Jersey and many of the portrayals and jokes allude to Jersey stereotypes, but this interpretation of the play is much like the character of Kimberly. You can’t change what life gives you, but you can choose to do the best with what you’ve got.

The production will make you laugh, but you’ll also see a first-rate team at work, and as a bonus, you’ll get a master-class in acting from the talented Debra Jo Rupp.