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Kimberly Akimbo 

Kimberly Akimbo, a dramedy by David Lindsey-Abaire, is about broken people. Buddy Levaco is a drunk gas-station attendant. Pattie Levaco has carpal tunnel syndrome; her hands are mummified in casts; she's grandly pregnant; and she's a hypochondriac to boot. Debra Levaco is a homeless ex-con; her glasses' frames are mended with tape; and she's hoping a child can help her commit check fraud (aided by a stolen post-office box, so it's probably mail-fraud, too).

The character least crippled is Kimberly Levaco, a 15-year-old Jersey girl. She's shy, generous, responsible and smart. Her most obvious problem is her conspicuous condition -- progeria, an aging disorder that makes her look like a wizened, elderly woman. But a house full of booze and petty bickering doesn't help things. Thanks to her disorder, Kimberly's days are numbered, but she's stuck feeding her mother spoonfuls of cereal, and her only suitor is a pimpled fast-food cashier. What's a girl to do?

Kimberly Akimbo is a zingy drama, and no company is better suited, if only by name, to produce it than Off the Wall Productions, based in distant Washington, Pa. (Depending on traffic, the average inner-city Pittsburgher must drive 45 minutes to an hour to reach Washington.) From the outside, the Off the Wall building appears to be a Victorian row-house, and the theater itself, housed in an upstairs loft, seats only 50 or 60 patrons.

It's mind-boggling, then, what the Off the Wall staff can do with their tiny stage. Sara Baines-Miller's set folds and re-arranges, accommodating a public library, living room, car, drive-thru zoo and empty street. In a few steps, the actors clump and disperse; one second, claustrophobia; the next second, complete alienation. And like Lindsey-Abaire's world, there isn't much in the middle.

In recent years, New Jersey has become a mecca of existential ensemble dramas: Mall Rats, Garden State, Be Kind Rewind, Being John Malkovich, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle -- there's just something about that swampy, boomerang-shaped peninsula that makes for great stories about total weirdos coming of age and finding love and swearing like sailors. In the wrong hands, Kimberly Akimbo could be just another Jersey drama, but director Michael E. Moats has chiseled every detail, and each actor excels. Every link holds fast, and Allison Cahill, as Kimberly, impersonates the sad teen-ager to a T.

You may fear driving all the way to Washington County only to find New Jersey. But fear not: Kimberly Akimbo is a planet unto itself.

 

Kimberly Akimbo continues thru Oct. 25. 147 Main St., Washington. 724-873-3576 or www.insideoffthewall.com.

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