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"Kimberly Akimbo" is the only reason to go back to high school

Victoria Clark in "Kimberly Akimbo" (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Kimberly may be a teenager with an incredibly rare genetic disorder, but it's everyone in her midst that has an affliction. Her pregnant mother is hypochondrial. Her father teeters between alcohol overconsumption and outright addiction. And yet we, Kimberly's audience, are struck with a case of side-splitting laughter. It's an unexpected diagnosis for a musical centered on a 16-year-old with a life-threatening malady, but one whose symptoms, giggling, guffawing, do not relent for the duration of "Kimberly Akimbo" at Broadway's Booth Theatre. This new musical from the delightfully unhinged minds of David Lindsay-Abaire and Jeanine Tesori uses silliness as a weapon, one that can cut through preconceived notions about the meaning of life and stitch them back together in the same movement.

Something of note about "Kimberly Akimbo": Its central character is actually named Kimberly Levaco (played by Victoria Clark). The character's first name is part anagram of the second (the full anagram reads "Cleverly Akimbo"). We know this because the object of Kim's affection is a boy named Seth (the scintillating Justin Cooley), a card-carrying member of "The Junior Wordsmiths of America." Seth has a knack for word games, palindromes, anagrams, it's a strangeness that Kim finds safety in, a psychological oddity to match her physical one: Due to a 1 in 50 million chromosomal chance, Kim ages four times faster than the average human. She is 16, but presents as a woman in her 70s. Kim is not so much susceptible to vicious bullying as she is to vocal blows from the very adults meant to shield her, parents Pattie (Alli Mauzey) and Buddy (Steven Boyer).

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