Take Me Away, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

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The Independent Culture

"Every cloud has a silver lining," is a mantra that Andy - the middle child of this disintegrating, dysfunctional Irish family - keeps throwing into the conversation with his two brothers. But whatever positive aspect he thinks will spring from misfortune is kept hidden in Gerald Murphy's dark comedy about three sons summoned by their father for a duty visit to their mother. It's safe to say there is absolutely no hope for better days following difficult times in Take Me Away.

Bren is a sullen, sexually repressed loner, surfing the internet in his neat little house, looking slightly sinister in his security guard's uniform, toilet roll to hand. When he's ambushed by his boozy, violent younger brother by messages on his answering machine and simultaneous frantic ringing of his doorbell, he cannot escape. Besides, angry, envious Andy has news. Their mother wishes to see them, apparently.

Youngest sibling Kev, the most innocent and likeable of the three, has also been summoned by Dad and it soon becomes clear that he's not quite the bright spark they thought he was. Things are definitely not what they seem. Their sealed-off lives are filled with desperation: each is short on something be it affection, ambition, money or common sense. The confusion surrounding their mother forces the boys to confront home truths and make temporary contact with each other, exploring their unenviable genetic connection.

Distrust and alienation fuel animosity between them and memories of their shared unhappy past, hints at twisted familial sins and self-revelations about their gloomy present circumstances gradually uncoil. Human weaknesses and self abuse trickle through this family under the influence of a boorish, selfish man for whom the concept of good husbandry or decent fathering seems alien.

Murphy's raw, punchy characters are coloured by entertaining dialogue, drawing strong, concentrated acting from all four actors. Fully-developed though they are, funny and painful in their limited imagination and stunted emotional development, these are not characters about whom you care.

It's a laddish evening, but women too play their invisible roles: Andy's wife who has left with their child and, especially, the boys' Ma, clearly an unloved and ungiving woman worn down by frustration and boredom. Even in their concern about her mystery illness, resentment erupts: "And she wasn't a very loving mother. I mean she never made Rice Krispie buns - do you know what I mean?"

To 28 August (0131-228 1404)