Two Thousand Years, Cottesloe, National Theatre, London

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The Independent Culture

The risk is that a degree of expectation is raised that only a major work will satisfy. That's not the ideal frame of mind for receiving the actually rather modest Two Thousand Years.

It's a sympathetic, well-researched, amusing, patient - but a touch stolid - piece about the tensions in three generations of a secular Jewish family when the 29-year-old son turns to religion. You think that brooding Josh (Ben Caplan) is going to shoot up when he shiftily rolls up his sleeves. In fact, he's binding his arm in preparation for clandestine prayer. The irony is that his liberal parents (Allan Corduner and Caroline Gruber) would almost prefer him to be a junkie. "It's unbelievable. It's like having a Muslim in the house," exclaims the dentist father.

With Josh as the catalyst, the play exposes the assumptions of all its characters. These include his better-adjusted, globetrotting sister (Alexis Zegerman), an interpreter who still believes in protest; her boy-friend (Nitzan Sharron), a pessimistic expatriate Israeli who thinks there's no hope for the Middle East; and - best of all - the irritably funny, fag-puffing grandfather (a winning John Burgess) who's ashamed that Zionism has been hijacked by racist zealots.

When Josh asks the old man: "What does it mean to be Jewish?" he jests that "it means visiting your family on a Saturday afternoon and finding yourself in a fucking war zone". The play would benefit from a bit more domestic belligerence.

In this piece, which spans the past two years, we hear the family respond to recent events, from the dismal turn-out at the last general election to the eviction of settlers from the Gaza strip and even the New Orleans flood. The discussions sound faintly contrived and wooden: a pity, because they provide the context for understanding Josh's recourse to God, which the play neither condones nor condemns but recognises as a protest. His family never really try to get to grips with him. A good play, if lacking in the richness of the best of Leigh's stage and film.

To 31 January 2006 (020-7452 3000)