Debra Watts speaks - grungy, crazy Debra. . . crazy like a fox. "I'm not a kid," she says. "I know what life does now. It flies right by ya. And the good things go with it. They don't stop to land in your lap. You gotta grab the good stuff, otherwise it's gone."
Ana Gasteyer grabbed the good stuff — the role of Debra Watts in the Manhattan Theatre Club's production of David Lindsay-Abaire's new play, Kimberly Akimbo. "I read it," the actress says, "and I wanted in." She says this as she's breast-feeding six-month-old Frances McKittrick during a lunch break in rehearsals at the MTC administrative offices on West 43rd Street.
The reading was first at home, alone (or alone with husband Charlie McKittrick and their daughter), and then, two days later, with other actors, the playwright, and director David Petrarca, here at MTC — "a reading," Mama says, "that turned into an audition, which was nice for me because I didn't know it was an audition. This was three weeks after Frances was born, when I was in no condition to audition for anything." But Ana Gasteyer knew what she wanted (see above). "My husband was very nice. He took off from his job" — marketing strategist at the Ogilvy & Mather advertising agency — "and came over and held the baby, then dashed back to work."
As anyone who saw his Fuddy Meers can testify, David Lindsay-Abaire writes plays inhabited by individuals in whom the bizarre and the commonplace are entwined in more or less equal proportions. The Kimberly of Kimberly Akimbo is, for instance, a 16-year-old girl whose body ages at four-and-a-half times the normal rate, so she now has the outer aspects of a woman in her sixties. But no one in this drama is quite as "inappropriate" — to quote Kimberly's geeky boyfriend — as Aunt Debra, a cellar-dwelling con artist and part-time inadvertent murderess whose latest pie-in-the-sky check-forging scheme has her "dragging a mailbox eight blocks in the middle of the night."
As a star of "Saturday Night Live" these past six years, Ana Gasteyer has played all sorts of women (Celine Dion, Martha Stewart, Hillary Rodham Clinton prominent among them). "Strait-laced professional types, more guilty of narcissism than lunacy. I don't play stupid people, and I don't characteristically play women like Debra." Not that Debra is stupid; she's just "pretty deluded, working on her own whatyoucallit, wavelength. She fancies herself on top of things, which is sort of weird, but at the same time there's a warmth to her. Still, she's such a mess. It's fun for me."
Kimberly Akimbo came along "just as I was in the process of deciding to leave 'SNL.'"
So what happens to you, Miss Gasteyer, at the end of this run? "To me? I hope the play gets extended," she says as she detaches Frances and goes off with a laugh to a quick lunch of her own.