NOTES FROM THE BOTTLETREE, Ma’at Production Association of Afrikan Centered Theatre, at Victory Gardens Theater. MPAACT’s metier seems to be moving family dramas that examine the sense of duty, longing, and pride felt by the adult daughters of dysfunctional fathers. In Addae Moon’s new play, blocked artist Jules (Alana Arenas) must deal with the death of her superstitious, substance-abusing Vietnam-vet father, an artist in his addled decline. Jules had been his caretaker, and after he dies, her younger brother Red, a cardsharp with other hustler’s skills, arrives to live in the apartment she shares with her lover, Che. Confronting the feelings about her father she’s been repressing–her ambivalence toward the man whose callused hands both gently braided his children’s hair and bruised their mother–frees Jules from her artistic block.

There’s one terrific scene–one of the best I’ve seen at conveying men’s casual escalating rivalries. When Che goes to retrieve Red from the train station, he unknowingly sits next to him, and the exchange between these two strangers speaks volumes about the men who reside beneath their facades. As portrayed by Andre Teamer, this is Che’s single moment of heat. Sati Word plays Red with relaxed intelligence, as an almost comically unflappable wise man. Even by the play’s end, we don’t know whether the adversarial or affectionate aspect of their relationship will prevail.