"It is very much a narrator-driven piece it's me telling a story," explains its star and creator, Cynthia Hopkins. That's the simple version. Here's the complicated one: Thirty-three-year-old Hopkins says the show originally was inspired by her struggle with psychogenic amnesia a type of the condition associated with a traumatic event (her mother died when she was a teenager). "What the play is about really," says Hopkins, "is that very phenomenon of traumatic events shaping who you are and how much control you can have over how they shape you."
Accidental Nostalgia's main character, Cameron Seymour (Hopkins), is a neurologist-writer-Sufi identity thief who, in an effort to piece together her past, travels to her hometown in Georgia, where she finds out that her father has disappeared and remembers that he possibly abused her as a child. From there, Seymour travels to Morocco and beyond, all the while mulling over memory, identity and whether you can "change your mind." "It's been called outlandish," Hopkins admits. "But actually the parts that reviewers point out as being the most outlandish are taken from reality."
It's not quite a one-woman show. Joining Hopkins on stage are the members of her band, Gloria Deluxe, and the technicians who work with the elaborate videoscapes that fluctuate behind her. She and Gloria Deluxe play 14 songs in a style as genre-defying as the show's narrative: part alt-country, part garage rock, part cabaret. "It's really like storytelling punctuated by songs," Hopkins says. "It's like a cross between a monologue story and a concert and a musical." And the dance numbers, like everything else, are "a bit eclectic," Hopkins says, "kind of jazz-burlesque."
Hopkins is many breeds of performer a quadruple or quintuple threat, one might say she sings, acts, dances, composes and plays the accordion and guitar. She and her band flit regularly around the trendy New York concert/club scene, and as a solo artist, Hopkins has won a Bessie award and two Obies.
Accidental Nostalgia is finally a finished product after several years of churning through grant-sponsored production, disparate performance spaces and intensive research about memory loss and incestuous abuse. It premiered in Brooklyn in 2004 and has not only crisscrossed the country but spawned a production company called Accinosco from its cast and crew, which recently premiered a "prequel/sequel" to Accidental Nostalgia in Brooklyn.
Oh, and how about that female nudity? Yes, Hopkins briefly strips, but it's more a change of clothes and a change of self. "It's saying you have to do that in order to become someone new," Hopkins explains. "The lyrics say, 'Here I go, naked as the day I was born,' and I thought, 'She needs to be naked.' "
As if we'll need nudity to remember her. 8 p.m. Friday, January 13, and today. Wortham Center's Cullen Theater, 501 Texas. For tickets, call 713-227-4SPA or visit www.spahouston.org. $26.25 to $41.25.