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King of the Hill 

Karamu stages a downer of a play about the '80s.

August Wilson’s King Hedley II, opening tonight at Karamu House, is set in Pittsburgh’s economically depressed Hill District. But director Caroline Jackson-Smith says the play could easily be transported to one of Cleveland’s decaying neighborhoods. She says she has to look no further than the crumbling structures she sees on her way to the theater every day. “There were some very deliberate things done to Pittsburgh that sucked the life out of the district,” she says.

King Hedley II -- the eighth work in Wilson’s 10-play cycle about blacks in 20th-century America -- focuses on a group of characters living in the Hill in 1985, when Reaganomics and crack plagued the onetime cultural center. The title character spends much of the play trying to make ends meet. Others search for forgiveness amid disappointment, violence, and a social shift. “Although rap music is never mentioned in the play,” says Smith, “you can feel that rhythm bubbling up from the heated frustrations of African Americans who have never been extended the dream of America.”
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: May 25. Continues through June 17

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