SERENGETI PLANE, Center Theater. Stephen P. Daly’s new play, set in a Chicago probation office, seems an awkward imitation of the hit 80s cop show Hill Street Blues–a clutter of short scenes, tough characters, and rambling, overlapping plots without any clear resolutions. Innovative camera work and fabulous scripts made this structure work on TV, at least in the early years of the series. In an effort to capture that same seedy tension, Daly and director Jay Paul Skelton employ loud music between scenes and try to evoke clipped, tense performances from the actors.

But unfortunately the script is full of cryptic plot twists, unexplained or heavy-handed metaphors, and macho outbursts that sound like cheap Mamet knockoffs. The story revolves around a lawyer from Mozambique who’s visiting the Chicago office; a dubious corruption scandal taints his unbelievable innocence. But in this rambling play spackled with adolescent and unsavory images he seems a mere footnote. To recontextualize one character’s particularly bizarre macho remarks about another character’s disability scam, this play has “more holes than a practice dummy for proctologists.”

–Carol Burbank