THE FRINGE / Gold in small quantities

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Some play titles seem so tenuously related to the events on stage that they appear to have been attached by accident. Not so Resolution, the new play by Murray Gold at BAC. The word 'Resolution' dissects the white set in huge black letters and, within minutes of the play's opening, two lovers are flipping definitions back and forth like a ping pong ball: 'I admire your resolution'; 'I have made a resolution not to love you'; 'I hope we reach a happy resolution'.

It's a scene that sets both the subject and the tone of this bleak comedy. Gold goes on to explore the relative values of resolution in one dysfunctional family, but does so in a playful style that is by turns witty, disturbing and irritating.

At the play's centre is Stroller, a youth surrounded by people who are strong on resolution and weak on affection. His parents loathe each other, his father hates him, and his girlfriend has resolved not to mess up her tidy life with passion. But when Stroller becomes involved in a murder his perverse kith and kin begin to admire him. A chain of odd events unfolds that finally resolves with Stroller and his girlfriend at his grandmother's deathbed finding the resolution to love one another.

Gold's bizarre plotting is intriguing at first but becomes so surreal by the end that it is hard to see what he is driving at or to remain fully engaged with his characters. His detached style can be fascinating - even when delivering insults his characters address one another with elaborate courtesy as if they had learned their English from an old-fashioned phrase book. But while such exchanges are both disturbing and beautifully executed, sometimes the script is held up by its own wit. David Farr directs this whimsical text with a crisp, cool style that the cast carry off well. This is certainly an impressive piece, but just too convoluted.

Strange relations and strained relations are the subject, too, of Erin Cressida Wilson's Dakota's Belly, Wyoming, receiving its British premiere at the New Grove. On a remote ranch in Wyoming, Vern seeks refuge from his broken marriage by visiting his sister, Dakota. Brother and sister have a claustrophobic relationship, and when Vern's wife Trixie also turns up, announcing that she is pregnant and claiming that the child was conceived with both Vern and Dakota, it's clear that she is also pretty confused about the object of her desire.

This is all fine as far as it goes - but that is as far as it goes. The play establishes an intense emotional triangle, but feels more like a protracted opening scene than the entire drama. It is strong on atmosphere, and Paul Bernstein's languorous production brings this out, as do Hoyt Miller as the taciturn Vern and Margot Steinberg as the nervy Trixie. But the production is overwhelmed by Donna King as Dakota, whose outsized performance constantly upstages the others.

'Resolution' is at BAC, SW1 (071-223 2223); 'Dakota's Belly, Wyoming' is at New Grove, NW1 (071-383 0925)