A must-see play.
Theater at its best.
— Portsmouth Herald
Kimball’s manuscripts are like a brilliant concerto. His themes, lines and characters tell the story on the page.
— The Wire
Scintillating humor and bare-bones humanity.
— Foster’s Daily Democrat
A fierce breed of comedy. An emotional wringer of a new play. An intricate and wrenching study of four evolving griefs.
— Portland Phoenix


5 women, 2 men

By longstanding comic tradition, the secret of comedy is timing. Thus, with a jolt of ill-fated timing, begins The Secret of Comedy, which finds 50-year-old comedy writer Emily Petrocelli diagnosed with a terminal illness on the same day that husband Dave, an airline pilot, wins the MegaMillions lottery. Their 30-year-old daughter Carey, herself an irreverent comic, moves back home to help her parents through the ordeal.

These are intelligent people, but each has mastered the art of avoiding emotion, Emily and Carey through their opposing senses of humor, and Dave from his years of flight training, which sets him duty-bound on a course to find a cure where none exists. Carey, complying with her mother’s ban on crying, tries to enlist Emily’s help in writing a comedy routine about death.

But Emily has her own mission: to lead her family through the five stages of grief, from denial to acceptance, before she dies. In her attempts, she succeeds only in alienating them. Or perhaps she’s deliberately pushing them away.

Acting against Emily’s wishes, Dave hires eminent oncologist Milton Jennison, who takes an uncommon interest in Emily–until she asks him to help her die. Also joining the family-in-crisis is Emily’s best friend Katie, an overworked single mom, and her morbid 16-year-old adopted daughter Chenille, whom Emily hires as her Rainbow Girl after discovering the girl’s secret: She recently reneged on a suicide pact that claimed the life of her best friend. 

As Emily’s illness blurs the line between dream and reality, she begins receiving nocturnal visits from her late mother Bernice, an emotionless and bitter woman from whom Emily had been estranged for decades. Although in reality, Emily steadily succumbs to her illness, in her dreams she leaves her bed and becomes increasingly animated, revisiting events in her life in chronological reverse, ultimately confronting her mother and breaking free of her.


Past productions

  • Players’ Ring, Portsmouth, NH, Sept 2007
  • Staged reading at Villagers Theatre, Somerset, NJ, Feb 2008
  • Staged reading at Abingdon Theatre Company, NYC, Jan 2009
  • Acorn Studio Theatre, Portland, ME, Oct 2010
  • Aqua City Actors Theatre, Waterville, Maine, Sept 2013
  • Pie Man Theatre Co, Portland, ME, Oct 2016
  • Players’ Ring, Portsmouth, NH, Apr 2017

"Kimball gives you lots of meat to chew on; complex lives beautifully woven about one another. And there are laughs. Lots of them: innovative and provocative ones and a few simply fun.
A must-see play...theater at its best...simply jaw-dropping." — Portsmouth Herald

"Kimball’s manuscripts are like a brilliant concerto. His themes, lines and characters tell the story on the page." — The Wire

"There’s joy, anger, concern and love, but his delivery of 'frantically controlled' will break your heart." — Portsmouth Herald

"Kimberly Holliday (nominated for a 2018 BEST ACTRESS Spotlight Award) fully embodies this complex woman struggle[ing] to maintain control over her path while wearing a strong front and dealing with the internal battles. Holliday remains on stage throughout, and commands it.  G. Matthew Gaskell nails Dave; valiant fighter, devastated soul, cheerleader, and frozen. Incredible theater.  You’ll carry these people with you for some time to come." — Portsmouth Herald, 2017

"A must-see play. Theater at its best. Lisa Stathoplos is going to blow your socks off with a performance that will reach inside and shake up every inch of your humanity. Simply jaw-dropping."  — Portsmouth Herald, 2007

"Scintillating humor and bare-bones humanity…Stathoplos (nominated for a 2008 BEST ACTRESS Spotlight Award) grasps all the complexities…with comedic timing and gut-wrenching vulnerability...A flawless, brilliant performance." — Foster’s Daily Democrat, 2007

"A fierce breed of comedy...an emotional wringer of a new play...an intricate and wrenching study of four evolving griefs. And in the exhausting, exquisite lead role, Stathoplos displays not just virtuosity but a stunning, radiant humanity. This is a remarkable performance of a remarkably strong woman." — Portland Phoenix, 2007