Two Step, Almeida, London

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The Independent Culture

There have been reports that the divorce rate is soaring as a result of old flames flickering at each other over the internet. Two Step - a first play by the actor Rhashan Stone as part of the "push 04" festival of "black led" arts - tells a story that's a counter-example to this trend. Here, the reunion of former lovers is no-tech, far from mutually desired, and instead of reigniting sexual passion, it rouses rancorous recrimination and the desire for revenge.

Lenny (Derek Griffiths) deserted his girlfriend Mona 32 years ago, shortly after she had a miscarriage. Now he turns up at her Battersea council flat areformed character. Smart suit, capped teeth, degree course, RP accent, kept man status, stories of a white wife in Islington, a talented son, a book on the stocks about his recovery from alcoholism. Dona Croll's wittily scornful Mona sees it as a point of honour to be unimpressed: "New voice. New teeth. And sober. At least you still black. I suppose that's one blessing ..."

The play has a lot of tart fun at the expense of Lenny's self-righteous recourse to the "Twelve Steps" of Alcoholics Anonymous which he piously intones like a mantra to fend off moments that might turn uncomfortably revealing. It's Step Nine that has brought him back to Mona. This requires followers to make direct amends where possible to all the people they have harmed "except when to do so would injure them or others".

How you make a judgment about that is a very tricky question. Certainly, Lenny, who seems to be in a kind of solipsistic egoisme a deux with his Higher Power, is far more interested in achieving personal serenity than in considering what it will cost Mona to grant him forgiveness.

Stone's script and Josette Busell-Mingo's attractively acted production are less successful at depicting the reasons why the heroine opts for a vengeful course. From the outset, we see that Mona and her flat are haunted by the daughter (Remi Wilson) she might have had if she had not miscarried. The stylistic gulf between conversational realism and over-heightened ghostliness merely emphasise how hard it is connect the redoubtable, humorous, attractive Mona with the woman who, in other respects, seems to have said goodbye to the chance of love and family because of this early grief.

The point that Stone wants to push for more than it's worth is that Mona, too, is in denial about the past. We're asked to believe that she has clung to an image of herself as a good girl forced into sexual relations by an over-insistent drunk.

Hence, the heartlessness of the way she leads her former lover back into alcoholic temptation. But she in turn is brutally forced to shed her illusions in a contrived play that fails to persuade you that a "breakdown is a breakthrough".

To Saturday (020-7359 4404)

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