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Kimberly Levaco (Linda Castro) gets her name anagrammatized by her sweet and goofy genius boyfriend Jeff (Jason Conners) into "cleverly akimbo"—a posture of exasperation that fittingly characterizes this keen-witted and sharp-tongued 16-year-old girl. But the young protagonist of David Lindsay-Abaire's hilarious and tragic play comes legitimately by her typically adolescent sense of colossal injustice. Kimberly, with her petulant acid outbursts (which Castro delivers with perfect teenage attitude), seems wiser than her years, partly because she is afflicted with a mysterious disease (similar to progeria, but without its deformations) that has accelerated her physical maturity more than quadruply and will likely soon kill her. Moreover, Kimberly gets little or no sympathy from her contrastingly irresponsible and infantile family. Her alcoholic father (Matt Scott in a performance that slowly builds to pathos) tries to be fatherly—blubbering "I'm a good guy"—but fails. Her hypochondriac mother (Jo Anne Glover), ditzy to the point of pathology, is obsessed with her own new pregnancy—an appalling tale in itself. And Kimberly's homeless criminal aunt (Liv Kellgren), free after doing two years for forgery, is now hatching a mail-theft and check-washing caper while outrageously whining, "Why is it always up to me to be the responsible one?" Only nerdish schoolmate Jeff, a fellow misfit, gives Kimberly any normal friendship and comfort.

The playwright's own clear sympathy and pity for his poor deformed characters allows much humor and even merriment to permeate this pathetic tale, especially in happy scenes of game playing, where they seem almost normal at times, and where Dungeons & Dragons provides a means of blithely facing death. Directed by Delicia Turner Sonnenberg, the interactions of this superbly tight ensemble are relishably detailed, subtle, and satisfying. And Kimberly's character is nailed in Castro's spunky and unsentimental performance, in which naturalness neutralizes the inherent creepiness of the clinical condition.

The conclusion—sealing the play's theme of carpe diem—is a surprisingly gentle diminuendo, a classically Romantic distancing; like the imperiled pair in Keats' poem, Kimberly and Jeff flee and fade, "And they are gone; ay, ages long ago/These lovers fled away into the storm."

"Kimberly Akimbo," presented by Moxie Theatre at the Lyceum Space, Horton Plaza, 79 Broadway Circle, San Diego. Wed.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m. Dec. 3-24. $25. (619) 231-3586.

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