When you see a student play, your loyalty to a familiar child usually obscures the show’s flaws. Watching Bigger Than Hope, audience members may find themselves feeling the same pull. Even if you don’t know any of the individuals in it–though the odds are improved with a cast of 50 or 60 adults and kids–there’s something endearing about seeing neighbors enthusiastically tell stories and sing songs about the streets where you live. You should not go to this show for its well-realized theater–the acting is amateur, and the singing is poor–but for its honest portrayal of the Edgewater/Uptown neighborhood. This is a glimpse of reality captured with raw innocence. Luke Cantarella has created an environment more than a set, and the audience is encouraged to move around in it freely. “The barriers between you and us don’t exist,” Scrap Mettle Soul’s artistic director, Richard Geer, said on opening night. “We’re all just people from the neighborhood.” Offering oral history, social commentary, and humorous takes on such landmarks as the Broadway bus, Montrose Point, and Lake Michigan, this performance–written by Megan Carney and Anne-Marie Akin and based on residents’ true stories–seeks to build community understanding. As such it succeeds for its effort and heart, and its novice theatrical elements are irrelevant. Margate Park Community Center, 4921 N. Marine, Chicago, 773-275-3999. Through May 13: Thursdays-Saturdays, 7:30 PM. $8.

–Jenn Goddu