Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Stage

Tampa native's 'Questions My Mother Can't Answer' runs through Sunday

In the dark theater, you hear traffic noise and footsteps on the sidewalk. Then a gasp and the sound of a sickening collision.

So begins Questions My Mother Can't Answer, Andrea Caban's solo show — she is author and performer — about her quest to figure out herself after being hit by a New York City cab. It was directed by Rachel Eckerling.

In what she calls "documentary theater," Caban's method is to interview and then play a series of women who toggle in and out of the 75-minute work at the Straz Center's Shimberg Playhouse. The women are in their 60s — a sexy Moroccan ballroom dancer, a mountain gal from Idaho, a gum-chewing "donations only" prostitute, a late-in-life lesbian, the loquacious Aunt Shirley and others — but the main character is called Andrea.

Caban, a Tampa native who has toured her show in the U.S. and internationally, is a wide-eyed gamine in tights and a green wrap, a plucky Disney heroine type with a pendant hanging from her neck. She has a knack for the accents and physical quirks of her characters. It's a testament to her acting that you are never confused about who is talking despite quick cuts from woman to woman.

However, the point of her well-crafted play is elusive. Adding to the trauma of the accident, Andrea's marriage is lukewarm and her career is an insecure mix of regional theater roles (the godlike narrator in Craig Wright's The Pavilion) and personal assistant jobs in New York. At 33, her biological clock is ticking.

"I don't know how to be a wife, or even a woman," she says. "It would be insane to want to add 'mother' to the list, right?"

Andrea's mentors provide "deep friendships I don't necessarily have with my mom." But when her mother enters near the end of the play, she is accessible enough in recounting things like her courtship, marriage and divorce with Andrea's father. Similar to the other women, for all their passion and flair, she ultimately falls back on conventional wisdom to offer motherhood as the answer to her daughter's questions: "And you're gonna be a mom. One day," she says.

At the performance I saw, there were clearly members of Caban's family on hand, judging from the animated responses in the audience to some of the lines, several of which were pretty personal and candid, such as references to her father's mental problems and selfishness. But she also suggests that he was pivotal in encouraging a life in the theater. Her father was beaming after the show when he introduced himself to me.

Questions has performances at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, Tampa. $28. (813) 229-7827 or (800) 955-1045; strazcenter.org.

Blarney: Lunasa, a crack Irish band, returns this week to play at Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center. With five musicians on traditional instruments — pipes, fiddle, tin whistles and flute — plus double bass and guitar, but no singer, the group brings a touch of jazz, rock 'n' roll and bluegrass to the Celtic sound. Their Tarpon concert is at 8 p.m. Thursday. $28. (727) 942-5605; tarponarts.org.

Chant: Florida Pro Musica makes one of its typically intriguing appearances this weekend, with a performance of the Mass for the Third Sunday of Lent. With Gregorian chant in Latin, interspersed with scriptural passages read in English, the hourlong Mass of music and meditation reaches back a thousand years. Directed by Larry Kent, it is at 3 p.m. Sunday at St. Mary Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church, 515 Fourth St. S, St. Petersburg. Free. (727) 896-2101; stmaryolg.org.

John Fleming can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8716.

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