Love And Money, Young Vic, London <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

It took both love and money to refurbish the Young Vic so handsomely, and, in a way, that powerfully enhances its trademark youthful conviviality and accessibility. There isn't a more sociable bar and restaurant in any London theatre, and last night it was humming before the opening of the larger of the two new studio theatres, called The Maria (after the late designer Maria Bjornsson). The designers have created a beautiful, flexible rectangular space, with a seating capacity of 180 including a shallow balcony. It throbs with creative potential.

And last night, the theatre was inaugurated with Matthew Dunster's stylish production of a play that forcefully questions the connection between love and money in world of easy credit, where the weak are tricked into debt and materialism muscles out things of real value.

The tone of Dennis Kelly's new play runs the range from baleful/bleak to outrageously funny, and from the pointedly preachy to the poignant as it tells a desolating story in backward-jumps.

Performed by an excellent cast on a set (designed by Anna Fleischle) where the items for each sketch-like episode are pulled out of walls of gleaming drawers, the piece begins at the end. David (John Kirk), a successful telecoms manager, is conducting an e-mail romance with a female French equivalent he'd bedded during a business trip. But their potential relationship is aborted when, by degrees, this unseen woman extracts from him the news that when he discovered that his manic-depressive wife Jess had taken an overdose, he saw it as a way of ridding himself of the £70,000 debt she'd run up on plastic, and of buying the Audi that he'd test-driven that day. Rather than help his spouse, he'd forced vodka down her throat to finish her off.

There are some fine scenes as the play rewinds to the point where we see the wife (superbly played by Kellie Bright) as she was when she had just fallen in love with him, and was full of hope. And Claudie Blakley is hilarious as David's ex-lover, who puts him through the mill of vindictive humiliation and reverse-snobbery when, to pay off debt, he begs her to take him into her firm.

I never really believed, however, that a man who had been a teacher would buy into the values of this new world, nor be so cruel to his wife after she'd seen someone being stabbed. In being so one-sided, Love and Money forfeits moral credit.

To 16 December (020-7922 2922)

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