This Is How It Goes, Donmar Warehouse, London

An Iago for our times...
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In Neil LaBute's new love-triangle drama about simmering racism in small-town America, the playwright is deliberately messing with us. Ben Chaplin's nameless Man is not just moving in on Megan Dodds' vulnerable, maritally unhappy Woman. The story is he's a failed lawyer who fancied her at school and, on returning to his hometown, he rents her spare room, acting cute. Her husband, Idris Elba's Cody, is a macho black businessman and visibly aggravated.

In Neil LaBute's new love-triangle drama about simmering racism in small-town America, the playwright is deliberately messing with us. Ben Chaplin's nameless Man is not just moving in on Megan Dodds' vulnerable, maritally unhappy Woman. The story is he's a failed lawyer who fancied her at school and, on returning to his hometown, he rents her spare room, acting cute. Her husband, Idris Elba's Cody, is a macho black businessman and visibly aggravated.

The added teaser is that the white guy is a writer and keeps stepping out of the action, addressing us directly. So this is his memory-play or, maybe, a warped fantasy. One scene in which we see Cody batter his wife is then replayed differently, with a shrug from Chaplin acknowledging he's an unreliable witness. A belated flashback adds another twist to the question of who is deceiving who, and our narrator's happy-ever-after ending may be entirely false.

LaBute is smart. He is playing neo-Pirandellian games to highlight how people can slip into living a lie, and he weaves in comparative allusions to Othello, Hitchcock movies, The Mayor of Casterbridge and so on. The trouble is this becomes tiresomely self-conscious and Pinter - to whom the piece is dedicated - explores bigotry and dark fantasies far less schematically. Director Moisés Kaufman also needs to pinpoint a little more sharply how the colloquial chat - rife with dumb fillers like "Wow!" - is actually deeply evasive.

That said, LaBute's Man is an Iago for our times and Kaufman's trio are often riveting. The verbal slights fired back and forth by the two guys are appallingly funny and dangerous. Chaplin's manner is unsettlingly innocuous too, flecked with tiny intimations of mounting anger as he presses his lips together and nods. Consequently, the concealed racism is really breathtaking - as well as ethically challenging - when it virulently erupts. This Is How It Goes certainly gets under the skin.

To 9 July. 0870 060 6624

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