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Smoke Signals 

Russian book stirs Cuban workers.

Is that a cigar in your pocket, or are you just happy to see - me? Sultry happens in Anna in the Tropics.
  • Is that a cigar in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me? Sultry happens in Anna in the Tropics.
9/17-10/2

Ensemble Theatre opens its 26th season this weekend with the Latin-spiced, Pulitzer-winning Anna in the Tropics. Artistic director Lucia Colombi says its appeal is twofold: It's a smart, sexy story, and "The Latino population in Greater Cleveland is very culturally underserved with live-theater performance," she says. "This is a unique offering."

Nilo Cruz's prize-winning play is set in 1929, in a Florida cigar factory, where a young Cuban storyteller recites Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina to the sweltering workers. "He's hired to read to them to keep their minds in a beautiful place," says Colombi, who's directing Ensemble's production. "It's such an exquisite piece."

Eventually, the cigar-cutters and rollers fall under the sway of Anna's passionate tale. "The play takes on the shape of the book in the story that it tells," says Colombi. "It's very imaginative. And it's political, in a sense. But it's a love story more than anything else." Anna in the Tropics is at the Cleveland Play House's Brooks Theatre (8500 Euclid Avenue) Saturday through October 2. Show times are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets range from $20 to $24, available by calling 216-321-2930. -- Michael Gallucci

To the Moon
Chinese Americans give thanks for an eons-old myth.

SAT 9/17

Johnny Wu has heard the story of Chang-O at every Chinese Moon Festival he's ever attended. And he'll sit through another recitation on Saturday, when the Organization of Chinese Americans of Greater Cleveland celebrates the fest's thousand-year history. "It's a Chinese Thanksgiving, because of its spirit of gratitude and abundant food," explains Wu. The banquet features an eight-course feast of pork, crabmeat, shrimp, and squid. After dinner, the legend of Chang-O, the Moon Goddess, will be told. After swallowing a magic pill intended for her husband, Hou Yi, Chang-O flies out the window and to the moon. Yi tries to save her, but he's stopped by strong winds. "And once a year, on the 15th day of the full moon, Yi visits his wife in spirit," says Wu. "That's why the moon is full and beautiful on that night." Food is served at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Li Wah Restaurant, 2999 Payne Avenue. Tickets are $30; call 440-846-0113. -- Cris Glaser

Devil in the Details
A look at Hotel Rwanda from the inside.

9/15-9/16

Nick Nolte portrayed a fictional United Nations peacekeeper in Hotel Rwanda. But after watching the moving documentary Shake Hands With the Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire, it's clear that the frustrated-but-unwavering Dallaire served as the main inspiration. The doc, a Sundance hit, chronicles the Canadian lieutenant general's futile attempts to alert the world to the imminent genocide that ravaged the African country in 1994. In the end, more than one million people were killed, and Dallaire -- who returns to Rwanda to make peace with himself in the film -- broke down. Everyone's to blame, according to Devil, which screens at the Cleveland Cinematheque (11141 East Boulevard) at 7 p.m. Thursday and 9:20 p.m. Friday. Admission is $8; call 216-421-7450. -- Michael Gallucci

Make Jokes, Not War

WED 9/21

World annihilation is no laughing matter. So on Wednesday, the United Nations' International Day of Peace, the Improv joins 30 other comedy clubs worldwide for Stand-Up for International Peace, in which funny people take the stage and tell jokes (presumably not about global obliteration). Several local comedians will perform their usual sets, giving a shout-out or two to world harmony along the way. It starts at 8 p.m. at the Improv, 2000 Sycamore Street. Tickets are $10; call 216-696-4677. -- Michael Gallucci

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