Capital Fringe Review: ‘They Call Me Q!’ by Carolyn Kelemen

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Qurrat Ann Kadwani is a tour-de-force in her one-woman show

It’s got to be tough to do a solo show, opening night at 10 p.m. on a sultry summer night, but remarkable, energetic, and seemingly tireless Qurrat Ann Kadwani pulled it off without a noticeable drop of sweat in They Call Me Q! She is tour-de-force in her one-woman show that plays two more times at the Gearbox through the weekend.

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“I was born the same year Ronald Regan was elected President,” Kadwani declares in her opening monologue. “It was the same year when Diana met Charles, and MTV began,” she continues. “So how did my birth reflect these milestones? My parents gave me the most difficult name to pronounce…ever!” Thus begins the tale of Qurrat Ann Kadwani (partly based on the Koran), called “Q” in most of her life story with a few derogatory slurs that pop up in her tales of teen angst.

With its 66 seats looking down at the stage, the Gearbox third floor space reminds one of an Off-Off Broadway theatre. The set is sparse, a table scattered with bangles, large hoop earrings and bracelets, a New York Yankees cap – you’ll find out later what that’s about – and a traditional red Indian scarf carefully placed on a chair. The actress uses the scarf throughout the vignettes, as a belly dancer’s skirt, a gypsy headdress, the traditional covering of a Muslim woman (her cousin in this story), and, my favorite, a shawl and apron for her mother, a wonderful characterization of an Indian woman set in her ways but still willing to listen (and advise) her “American” daughter. Q pulls off this with authentic gestures, language, and flavors of curry and cooking.

Dressed simply in black leotard pants and a white tank top, Q first appears vulnerable, yet you sense her strength and fortitude. Her face is translucent, her eyes expressive, especially when she rolls them as a frustrated teenage daughter. She is open, she is frank, and she is mesmerizing. She is also funny, a belly-laugh comedienne, not the usual outlet for Indian/Muslin women.

Our storyteller relates how her family moved from India to the Bronx where Q mingled with Puerto Rican girls (here she hooks on the aforementioned gold earrings and dons the baseball cap) and African American kids who taught her moves and jive talk and how to defend herself. The latter part of the hour-long program deals with her return to her Indian roots and discovering, as she summarizes, “I’m happy with me…I’m not afraid of love or to be myself.”

Here is a show that should be required viewing for teenagers who deal with bullies, 20something folks whose lives are so busy they could use a break from reality, and, especially, women who seek independence, yet struggle with breaking family ties. Indeed, everyone would be touched by her story.

Running Time:  60 minutes.

They Call Me Q! plays Saturday, July 20, at 1 p.m. and Sunday, July 21, at 7:45 p.m. at Gearbox, 1021 7th Street NW, in Washington, DC. For ticket information, visit the show’s Capital Fringe page.

LINK
2013 Capital Fringe Preview and Interview with ‘They Call Me Q!’s Qurrat Ann Kadwani