PIECE-MEAL CLAN, Ma’at Production Association of Afrikan Centered Theatre, at Victory Gardens Studio Theater. In author-director Shepsu Aakhu’s new work a tug-of-war erupts for the soul of Desmond, a troubled grad student who finds himself caught between his college friends (the “piecemeal clan” he must soon leave behind) and the strong women who raised him. Both groups are disturbed by the arrival of Desmond’s long-absent father, but Desmond won’t stop searching for his identity, part of which lies with the father he never knew.

Sadly, Aakhu’s unfocused and repetitive script takes too long to set up a familiar situation, commenting on events rather than bringing them to life and announcing what to expect rather than working out the conflicts. Desmond’s final dilemma–whether to watch the Bulls’ final playoff game with his congenial dad and college friends or return home with his imperious mother, aunt, and grandmother–comes out of nowhere and feels forced. And when Desmond at last confronts his father over why he deserted his mother the play simply ends, without allowing the father to answer.

Antoine Brunson overplays Desmond’s surly side but drives home his early-life crisis, Tina Marie Wright is formidable as his no-nonsense grandmother, and Gina Taliaferro does what she can with the thankless role of Desmond’s control-freak mother. –Lawrence Bommer