What drives love and what drives hate is at the crux of this play, written by and starring Oliver Cotton.

Maureen Lipman and Harry Shearer are an elderly Jewish couple practising for their seniors dance competition in a cold New York suburb, when their life is disturbed by the arrival of their long lost brother (Cotton).

He breezes in from the sunshine state with a bright shirt but a less cheerful story, which steadily evolves in designer Ben Stones’ studied reproduction of a dreary 1980s apartment.

The action, like the set, is understated: the most heated scene features the throwing of perhaps the world’s smallest tuna sandwich. This is not high drama, but the echoing ripples of ordinary lives: events that start with a splash but end up barely noticed.

Lipman is superb, if unchallenged, in her role, while Shearer comes deservedly out of the shadows of his voice work on The Simpsons. Cotton’s character is less convincing, and it is that rather than his performance that is the weakness.

As writer, Cotton doesn’t do enough with his topic or his characters: a shame on both counts. There are thought-provoking points in this play — tragedy, revenge, love (and ballroom) loiter at the edges — but their tips are all blunted.