There's nothing wrong with the direction or the acting in this play at the Old Vic, but it left me very cold. Even though it was all over in 90 minutes, I was looking at my watch and willing it to end as fast as possible. Looking at the photo of playwright John Guare in the expensive programme, I found one of my longstanding life principles confirmed -- never trust a man wearing a bow tie. The title is a piece of flimsy cod-sociology which has very little relationship to the story, based on a real 1980s incident, of a young black con-man who insinuates himself into the homes of wealthy liberal New Yorkers by pretending to be the son of Sidney Poitier. The art dealer couple let him stay the night and give him fifty dollars, but quickly discover they're not the only ones who have fallen for his story. In a sense this is the preliminary to what should be the real action of the play, but the real action never comes. Instead, the story meanders off at a tangent with the introduction of other characters who fall victim to the young man's sob-stories. By the time we return to the art dealer and his wife, the interest has flagged. Although the dialogue is crisp and well written, the play is ruined (at least for me) by the shallow two-dimensional nature of the characters, and the way they are always coming to the front of the stage and explaining things to the audience. The soliloquy has a long and respectable tradition, but in the Shakespearean theatre it's a way of exploring a character's inner thoughts, not a piece of storytelling designed to plug gaps in the action. It's a common device in American plays, but whenever I come across it I feel like jumping out of my seat and shouting 'Show, don't tell!' Guare certainly over-uses it. The young black man Paul, however, who is potentially the most interesting character in the play, never gets to speak to the audience in the same way. What's his motivation? Is he just trying to hustle a living, or is he just trying to do what all Americans are allowed to do -- reinvent himself? Reinvention is a great American theme that goes back to Fizgerald's Gatsby and probably much further, but Guare's ideas on the subject seem muddled and superficial. David Grindley's cast including the excellent Lesley Manville do what they can to breathe life into these cardboard characters. The set is a womb-like red semicircle furnished with a single three-seater sofa, above which is suspended a Kandinsky canvas. The shallowness of this play and its theme reminded me of another ninety-minute popular success, Yazmina Reza's Art. Ninety minutes, it seems to me, almost always sells the theatre audience short, even though it allows more time to nip out to the pub afterwards. Writing a second act can force the playwright to develop ideas in more depth, to create something that goes beyond an intriguing setup and allow characters space to reveal something unexpected. The ninety-minute play is like a man wearing a bow-tie -- not to be trusted.