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"12 Steps' revisited is too predictable

It's deja vu all over again in 12 Steps to a More Dysfunctional Christmas, Rob Nash's solo show now playing at the Off Center Theater of Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.

This is the second part of Nash's Dysfunctional Family Saga, the first installment of which previously played the Off Center. The first time around his spoofery of the eminently spoofable 12-step recovery movement probably was pretty funny stuff, but now it seems more than a little predictable.

Every gay performance artist/stand-up comic seems to have firsthand experience in Alcoholics Anonymous or other 12-step programs, and they put it to use in their routines, with varying success. Nash's shtick is to impersonate all the members of a haplessly neurotic Texas clan ranging from a Texarkana matriarch called Mildred to her estranged son, Fred, who has AIDS, to her teenage grandchildren, Matt and Ashley.

Nash is from Texas, and obviously knows the territory. He does each character in a different goofy voice, with his only prop being an orange sweater.

Most effective is Margot, a Houston suburbanite of grating pretentiousness. Another amusing character is Windsong, a new age aunt who gives everybody The Road Less Traveled for Christmas.

A measure of the lack of fresh material in Nash's latest installment is the inclusion of a touchy-feely segment on Phil Donahue, who hasn't been a household word for a while. With a clutch of references to passe pop cultural phenomena such as "tough love" and the "inner child" and Robert Bly's Iron John, the show seems about five years out of date.

12 Steps to a More Dysfunctional Christmas continues through Sunday. Tickets are $13.50. Call 229-7827.

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Andes Manta from Ecuador performs at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at TBPAC's Playhouse. Former Times X-Team correspondent Brian Orloff, 12, a student at Pinellas Jewish Day School in Clearwater, provides the following report on the folk music group:

Andes Manta uses music and culture from their country and people to send a message. I interviewed Wilson Lopez, a group member. Wilson told me their music is the music of the Andes people from the mountains. You can hear this music in Colombia, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru.

Brian: What does the music mean to you?

Wilson: The music comes from our feelings, our hearts. We express how our people lived before us.

Brian: How long have you been playing?

Wilson: I've been playing since I was 10 years old.

Brian: Do you have a message you wish to send through your music?

Wilson: We use the music to hear all the natural sounds of the earth. We try to pass the message to all to save the earth because we live from it.

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Andes Manta, Nash and other performers are featured today from noon to 1:15 p.m. in "A Taste of Art at the Center" at TBPAC in the sculpture garden by the Jaeb Theater. Box lunches are on sale at $6. Call 222-1074.