Insufficiency, at Hammersmith's Riverside Studios
THE SCIENCE of bubbles is the subject for Carl Djerassi's comic look at the petty rivalries festering among the test tubes.
But, despite cleverly stripping back the mechanics of a university research department, this offering from the scientific genius behind the contraceptive pill ultimately falls flat.
Jerzy Krzyz is a brilliant but eccentric Polish chemist studying the science of bubbles at an American university, where he grows frustrated at the lack of respect from his fellow academics.
When two colleagues die after sampling one of the bottles of bubbly he has been tinkering with in the lab, was it a prank gone horribly wrong or cold-blooded murder?
There is an interesting and occasionally amusing tale at the heart of Djerassi's play but at two hours, including an interval, it feels terribly bloated.
The best moments are the heated exchanges between Jerzy and his department chairman, who is desperate to get him to play the game in order to secure tenure.
But while Tim Dutton impresses as the loveable but naive, and somewhat gawky, Jerzy, the central character remains a bit of a cardboard cut-out and there is a distinct lack of belly laughs.
The sub-Perry Mason courtroom scenes, in which Jerzy stands accused of murder, are surplus to requirements and lack any authenticity.
Djerassi has admitted sneaking chemistry into his plays in a bid to educate audiences and, unfortunately, you do sometimes feel more like you're sat in a lecture room than a theatre.
It may make you look differently at the bubbles in your next glass of Champagne, or beer, but this is more Babycham than Dom Perignon.
Insufficiency is at Hammersmith's Riverside Studios until October 20.