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On Stage This Week 

A Star Ain't Nothin' But a Hole in Heaven

Karamu House

Every life has turning points and for many, one of the biggies is when you leave home for college. That wrenching decision to leave the comforts of home for a new, unknown world are hard for everyone, but particularly for a poor African-American farm girl in Alabama in 1969. This is the setting for A Star Ain't Nothin' But a Hole in Heaven by Judi Ann Mason, now at Karamu House. Mason's script captures the rhythm and lilt of her characters' language, and a couple of the actors distinguish themselves with fine performances. In particular, Corlesia Smith as the innocent, earnest Pokie and Joyce Linzy who is sweet and poignant as Aunt Mamie. But the tempo of the production is often excessively sluggish, and that makes for a fairly long 2½ hours.

Through February 24 at Karamu House, 2355 E. 89th Street, 216-795-7070

The Gospel According to James

Ensemble Theatre

This is an adventurous and risk-taking piece about an actual lynching of two black men, Abe Smith and Tommy Shipp, in Marion, Indiana in 1930. It is narrated by two people, Marie and James, who were intimately involved in the tragedy and who discuss the event, 50 years later, with divergent memories and wholly separate goals. Director Celeste Cosentino is to be congratulated for taking on such a complex play, and for helping shape several fine performances. But by not staging the show in a way that Marie and James can truly engage with each other and the audience in a visceral manner, the interesting "history of memory" conflict that playwright Smith sets up never comes to full fruition.

Through February 17 at Ensemble Theatre, 2843 Washington Blvd., Cleveland Hts., 216-321-2930

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