By Agata Michalak
Stony Brook Theater Department professor Deborah Mayo seems to be aging backwards. Last year, Mayo was a guarded, elderly widow with a 27-year-old son. This weekend, Mayo was a 16-year-old, angst-filled teenager.
Not quite aging backwards herself, Mayo went from acting the dramatic role of Helene Alving in Ibsen’s “Ghosts,” to acting Kimberly, an eye-rolling teenager with an aging disease, in the Asylum Theater Company production of David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Kimberly Akimbo.”
Stony Brook University’s Staller Center For the Arts premier show revolved around a 16-year-old teenage girl aging four and a half times faster than an average human. In the body of a 72-year-old woman, Kimberly comes of age, deals with an alcoholic father, endures her pregnant mother, helps scam a bank with her delinquent aunt and falls in love with a nerdy classmate – all while coming to terms with her own inevitable death.
“Deb Mayo is absolutely phenomenal,” says Allie Steiner, 20, a Stony Brook University Theater major who praised both Mayo and the Asylum Theater’s performance.
This is the Asylum Theater’s second collaborated production with the Staller Center. Valeri Lantz- Gefroh, the director of “Kimberly Akimbo,” began the Asylum Theater in 2001 with Mayo, Steven Lantz-Gefroh, Laura Ross, Steve Marsh and Paul Castle. The theater company stayed active through 2003, producing Valeri Lantz-Gefroh’s show “Teller” and other intimate performances.
The theater company hit a wall for eight years but came back in 2011 when Valeri Lantz-Gefroh was honored at the Royal Shakespeare Company’s International Festival for her adaptation of “The Tempest.”
Staller Center Director, Alan Inkles, took note of the Stony Brook Theater Arts department’s “The Tempest,” and booked the Asylum Theater as the opening production for the following Staller 2012 season.
“He’s been a real amazing supporter,” says Valeri Lantz-Gefroh on Inkles. “He sees the value in live theater.”
As professors in Stony Brook University, Valeri Lantz-Gefroh and Mayo already had close ties with Inkles and encouraged him to bring small intimate theater to Staller.
The Asylum Theater Company produced “The Clean House” in 2012 and now “Kimberly Akimbo,” collaborating with Staller and The Oberon Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports the arts in the metropolitan area.
“Last year’s performance, “The Clean House,” was so successful that we had to add another performance,” says Mayo, who was enthused and jumpy after finishing her fourth “Kimberly Akimbo” act of the week.
Close ties between Staller and the theater company had Staller handling the lighting, videography and technical crew. The Asylum Theater was given the opportunity to show in Staller and received help, so the fee to book the theater company was significantly lowered. The Asylum Theater cost about 60 -70 percent of what a private company of the like this would normally cost, according to Inkles.
“Just the season itself cost $600,000,” said Inkles, referring to the Staller booking budget. The Asylum Theater helps keep that budget low because of the overlap in employees from Staller, the University and the theater company.
The Oberon Foundation was the third component that helped fill the 20-30 percent financial gap needed by the Asylum Theater to produce “Kimberly Akimbo.”
“The three worked together, Asylum Theater, the Staller Center and the Oberon Foundation, to make “Kimberly Akimbo” happen,” said Inkles.
The Asylum Theater will continue its run of “Kimberly Akimbo” this weekend Sept. 26-29 in the Staller Center Theater Two.