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"North Star" at Dogwood Dell 

Shining "Star"

About 12 people stayed on to watch the end of "North Star" at Dogwood Dell last Thursday. Thunder had begun to rumble in the middle of the first act. By intermission, rain was pouring, punctuated by dramatic streaks of lightning. Though the stage lights were going haywire and most of the crowd had left, the show went on and a dozen intrepid souls cowered under the protection of the Dell's large proscenium until the bitter end.

On that particular night, the audience got a rare treat. The downpour added a magical element to the evening; those of us who were huddling around the stage shared an uncommon intimacy with the actors. But on a normal night, without the meteorological fireworks, I wonder if people will end up as satisfied. In "North Star," a black woman named Aurelia reflects on her involvement in the racially charged demonstrations and sit-ins that happened across North Carolina in 1960. This is an intimate story, full of moments of true power and original insight. But as staged to fill the vast Dell stage, this production is hobbled by clumsy histrionics and overt symbolism.

Still, the members of director Charmaine Crowell's cast try hard to make these characters real, and they often succeed. A standout is Frederica Ricks who plays Aurelia's mother, a compassionate woman who wants to shelter her daughter from racism's wounds. Erica McLauen, who plays Aurelia as a child, makes a great impression, transcending the awkwardness that can plague child actors.

Though they don't happen until well into the second act, the conflicts in this story begin to transcend white vs. black, getting into issues that set mother against father and that highlight the difference between political actions and personal actions. Some people will lose interest before then. Others might want to bring an umbrella, just in case.

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