In a city of immigrant stories, They Call Me Q is one that has been told before: the hardscrabble fight to survive, the shock of meeting American culture in the flesh, the soul-wrenching identity crisis. But this spunky monologue, equal parts stand-up comedy and reality confessional, delivers a winning tale thanks to author and actor Qurrat Ann Kadwani’s dead-on impersonations of New Yorkers and some unselfconscious spoofing of her own immigrant iterations growing up tough in the Bronx.
A running joke involves Kadwani’s Indian name, which is twisted by her classmates into Carrot, Qatar, even Q-Rat. These abuses — like the rest of the “curry goat” and “Red Dot” slurs she endures — slide right off her resolve to succeed, so Kadwani delivers them like punch lines rather than the slaps they were intended as. She takes a certain relish in pulling on the swaggering personas of the girls in her hood (saucy Puerto Ricans, quick-fisted African-Americans), as well as a racist teacher and her own parents, all of whom helped shape the person she is today.
She learns that “Q from the BX” is a better self, richer in knowledge of the world and its others, than the one she might have become had she never made the trip to Amrika.