Moonbox’s ‘Kimberly’ will reward you in the end

Kimberly (Sheriden Thomas), Pattie (Micah Greene), Debra (Shana Dirik), and Jeff (Lucas Cardona) in "Kimberly Akimbo." photo by Sharman Altshuler

Kimberly (Sheriden Thomas), Pattie (Micah Greene), Debra (Shana Dirik), and Jeff (Lucas Cardona) in “Kimberly Akimbo.” photo by Sharman Altshuler

BOSTON — All you need to know about the title character in David Lindsay-Abaire‘s “Kimberly Akimbo” is that she is a 65-year-old teenager. And she’s the normal one.

Moonbox Productions takes on the dark as death comedy now at the Plaza Theatre of the Boston Center for the Arts that puts a capital “D” on dysfunctional, but is oddly touching in its depiction of a girl who just wants enjoy the normal life of a teenager at least once before she dies.
In real time, Kimberly Lovaco (Sheriden Thomas) is 16, but her body is that of a 65-year-old, and since the average life expectancy for those with her disease is 16, well, you get the picture.

Pattie (Micah Greene), Buddy (Andrew Winson) and Kimberly (Sheriden Thomas) - Photo by Sharman Altshuler

Pattie (Micah Greene), Buddy (Andrew Winson) and Kimberly (Sheriden Thomas).  Photo by Sharman Altshuler

Thomas warms up to the task of Kimberly after a slow start, and very soon you’ll start thinking of her as a typical teen somehow trapped in an atypical body.
The family lives in Bogoda, N.J., which may or not be a step up from their previous home in Secaucus. But the Lovacos, it turns out, had strong reasons for leaving
Andrew Winson is Buddy, the glowering, towering father. He works in a gas station, drinks too much and is famous for making promises to Kimberly he never keeps, even though he means well.
Micah Greene is Pattie, the “matriarch” of the Lovacos, who is crippled after an operation for carpal tunnel syndrome that makes her hands useless. She also happens to be pregnant out to here, and is convinced she is dying of cancer. She is a professional victim who forces others in the household to wait on her, feed her, and — ahem — perform personal hygiene duties.
Shana Dirik is one of the Boston area’s finest character actresses, and she really digs in to the part of Aunt Debra, the conwoman and frequent guest of the state who is a cheat, a liar and a thief — and those are her good qualities. The family thought they had ditched her for good when they fled Secaucus, N.J. for Bogoda, N.J., but she somehow worms her way back into the Lovaco home As played by Dirik, she is lewd, lascivious, unconscionable and totally hilarious.
High school junior Lucas Cardona makes his Moonbox debut as Jeff, the fast-food worker and classmate of Kimberly‘s — and fellow outsider — who takes an interest in her and enjoys composing anagrams — Kimberly Akimbo is one — and plays “Dungeons and Dragons.” Cardona brings a good-hearted warmth to the role.
They strike up an unlikely relationship that generates some golden nuggets of dialogue.
Buddy is highly suspicious of Jeff’s motives when it comes to sex but Kimberly reminds him “I went through menopause four years ago.”
Still, Jeff’s methods — including the Dungeon game — strike Buddy as unseemly. “I know the right way to get into a girl’s pants.”
Jeff, who is largely ignored by his father, also marvels at Pattie.
“I’d like to put your mom and my dad in a room and conduct experiments,” He says.
Lindsay-Abaire, who grew up in South Boston, has written with humor and heart in the past about working-class families such as the Lovacos — well, maybe not exactly like the Lovacos — most notably in his South Boston-based “Good People.” He has a feel for the problems and stresses that a lack of money and a sick child can produce.
Despite the chaos and madness that mark her family, Kimberly is like any other teen in that she just wants to be part of the crowd. She positively glows on those rare occasions when the the Lovacos function like a real family, playing a board game and enjoying Kimberly’s much-delayed 16th birthday cake.
The Jersey accents of the characters are pronounced — at times too pronounced — but I can’t say if that’s laid at the feet of dialect coach Danny Bryck or director Allison Olivia Choat, who has otherwise coaxed strong performances from the cast.
The tatented Dan Rodriguez contributes some fine incidental music but it’s a little too obtrusive at times. Less would be more in this case.
There will be heartbreak for Kimberly when she finds out how her mother got pregnant and the reason she wanted to get pregnant, and the reason the Lovacos fled Secaucus will add another nasty twist.
Again, it’s oddly affecting and touching, and Lindsay-Abaire will eventually open an escape hatch for Jeff and Kimberly.
“Kimberly Akimbo” is at times savagely funny, at other times just sad and troubling. If you stick with it early and plow through some of the overdone Jersey accents, you’ll be rewarded.
The Moonbox Productions’ production of David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Kimberly Akimbo.” Directed by Allison Olivia Choat. Scenic design by John Paul Devlin. Costume design by Susanne Miller. Lighting design by Jeffrey E. Salzberg. Projection design by Matthew Houstle. Souud design by Joel Abbott. Stage manager Matthew Zahnzinger. At the Plaza Theatre of the BCA through April 25.