The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

A blown fuse is the apt introduction to this adaptation of Dinaw Mengestu’s novel, in which Stepha, an unmarried Ethiopian store owner, navigates the nexus of three cultures in Washington, D.C. His African friends Ken and Joseph, an engineer and an upscale waiter, encourage him to embrace the American dream, while his African-American customers are far less taken with it (though they do appreciate having a place to buy milk). When white, Nordstrom-clad ex-professor Judith plants her flag of gentrification on the building next door, Logan Circle heats up. Judith’s biracial 11-year-old daughter Naomi strikes up a friendship with Stepha, and Judith joins in, giving Stepha an illusion of the family he craves. Book-It’s production thankfully avoids the bog of sentimentality into which so much immigrant-themed material falls. Adapter Kevin McKeon takes from the book’s clear-eyed text a representative sampling of scenes that Director Jane Jones infuses with nuance and energy. MARGARET FRIEDMAN

First Sunday of every month, 2 p.m.; Tuesdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. Starts: April 5. Continues through May 9, 2009

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