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

A Star Ain't Nothin' But a Hole in Heaven, 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday; $8-$15. Celebration Arts, 4469 D Street; (916) 455-2787; www.celebrationarts.net. Through August 18.
Rated 3.0 Celebration Arts’ artistic director James Wheatley takes pride in nurturing artistic talents in the Sacramento area, both in dance and theater. In his current production of A Star Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hole in Heaven, Wheatley gives opportunities to cast members who have limited stage experience, some making their theater debuts.

The result feels more like a summer student workshop rather than a polished production, but it does highlight young, talented actors who demonstrate acting potential.

Playwright Judi Ann Mason’s compelling coming-of-age story explores the limited opportunities facing African-American teens in 1969 Louisiana in the rural South, and centers on Pokie Cotton (Ronnae Murray), who has to decide between going to college in the North, or staying behind to take care of ailing relatives and a budding romance.

The younger cast members are anchored by more seasoned performers Wheatley and Mardres Story, who portray Pokie’s elderly aunt and uncle who push her to excel, and at the same time, rely on her to help them as their health declines. The audience really feels the dilemma facing Pokie—wanting her to escape the limitations of her upbringing, while understanding her need to take care of those who took care of her.

The young cast members who portray the Southern teens are enthusiastic and realistic. Though the play would have benefited with a little bit more rehearsal time and tightening up of the pace, it still presents a memorable story that resonates with authenticity.