GIRL TO BE NAMED LATER, Ma'at Production Association of Afrikan Centered Theatre, at the Victory Gardens Studio Theater. The best part of this show is the live music group Obaki, a three-person ensemble that pushes this sluggish play forward with its jazzy, subtle riffs and melodies. Nambi E. Kelley's story, about a young girl whose mother's murder leaves her trapped in a psychic feedback loop, needs editing to bring out its subtleties. A long first act pounds home the family secret, that Mama Marilyn is a prostitute who loves her children but pushes them away so that she can maintain her sexy business persona. When she's killed by her pimp's thugs in front of Oh Child, her youngest, the audience is brought into the girl's tortured mind by the playwright's rhymes and symbolic scenes, finally ending in an unconvincing healing fantasy.
The play combines children's games, rapidly shifting scenes, and choreographed half-danced interactions between characters; the characters themselves veer from dogmatic psychological exposition to vague but more conventional scenes. The performers swim gamely upstream, taking multiple roles as they wade in "the river of kinetic energy" that director William S. Carroll names as his goal in the program notes. Although many of the crises and situations reflect contemporary urban problems, in the end Girl to Be Named Later is a sloppy psychological fantasy that preproduction pruning could have grounded.