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Buckley’s Life Stories Give Her Extraordinary Edge

Far too often, solo performers assume that, through some alchemical theatrical process, their ramblings about their very ordinary experiences will be magically transmuted into high drama. Conversely, there’s hearing-impaired comedian Kathy Buckley, who probably hasn’t experienced a mundane moment in her genuinely extraordinary lifetime. Buckley’s one-woman show “Don’t Buck With Me!” at the Tamarind charts her progression from soundless isolation to a successful comedy career.

Six feet tall and strikingly slim, Buckley has a speech impediment that sounds remarkably like a New York accent--a fitting cadence for her frequently edgy humor. Buckley was raised in Ohio, but her stories about her childhood--including a sexually abusive father, mocking schoolfellows and unenlightened teachers who mislabel her “retarded"--seem straight out of Dickens’ London. Adulthood isn’t much better. Bedeviled by bad luck, Buckley was run over by a jeep on the beach and spent five years recuperating--only to learn she had cervical cancer.

With the help of director Sue Wolf, Buckley offsets hints of sentimentality with polished acerbity. Yet Buckley’s uncharacteristically self-important chatter about her career bespeaks a vestigial insecurity. Buckley should rest assured that her poignant, funny play needs no further comic credentials.

* “Don’t Buck With Me!,” Tamarind Theatre, 5919 Franklin Ave., Hollywood. Mondays-Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Ends April 2. $12.50. (213) 466-1767. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes.

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