tue 31/01/2023

Terrible Advice, Menier Chocolate Factory | reviews, news & interviews

Terrible Advice, Menier Chocolate Factory

Terrible Advice, Menier Chocolate Factory

Actor Saul Rubinek's first play is long and wordy

Scott Bakula and Caroline Quentin in Saul Rubinek's 'Terrible Advice'Nobby Clark

Saul Rubinek is an established actor in American television programmes such as LA Law and Frasier, where he played Daphne's fiancé Donny. Now the Canadian has turned his hand to playwriting and the result – Terrible Advice – receives its world premiere at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London.

Rubinek subtitles his work “A Dark, Dirty and Dangerous Play” and there are certainly nods to the first two elements, but its dangerousness rather escapes me. It concerns the story of two middle-aged men, now living in what is presumably Los Angeles, who met at college; child-man Jake (Scott Bakula, Captain Jonathan Archer in Star Trek: Enterprise), and perpetual loser in love Stanley (Andy Nyman, pictured below). As the play begins Stanley is, as ever, asking the former jock and still fit (in every sense) Jake for advice about the ladies.

Stanley has got himself into a bit of a kerfuffle. His girlfriend, Delilah (Sharon Horgan of Pulling fame), can't give him the child he so desperately wants, and he has, rather unbelievably, hooked up with his ex-wife, who is now carrying another man's baby. He has also been suspended from his college teaching post after pouring his heart out to one of his young female students – one of several strands in this story that goes nowhere.

Matters are further complicated by Delilah's close friendship with Jake's long-suffering partner, Hedda (Caroline Quentin, sporting a strange accent), who has recently taken him back after yet another dalliance with a young blonde. Jake - who also recently slept with Delilah - advises Stanley to dump her, and in so doing sets off a series of events that ends in everyone being alone and unhappy.

Rubinek can't decide whether Terrible Advice is a dark comedy or a deep and thoughtful investigation into the compromises that bind us into soul-destroying relationships, and it ends up being neither. There's little characterisation for the actors to work with – although they try their best – and too many things are hinted at rather than explored; is Stanley secretly gay, for example, or is he on the edge of a nervous breakdown, and is the porn-using Jake a paedophile? The friendship between the two women also fails to convince.

The play has its moments, however, and there are some nice one-liners – asked why he never wanted children, Jake replies, “I have enough trouble eating my own cereal” - and the sex talk between the two men is believable, funny and indeed dirty, but at two hours 15 minutes it's overlong and over-plotted, and Frank Oz's unzippy direction doesn't help. Nyman and Bakula give great performances but as their worlds fall apart we don't like any of the characters enough for it to matter.

  • Terrible Advice is at the Menier Chocolate Factory, London SE1 until 12 November
Rubinek can't decide whether this is a dark comedy or a thoughtful investigation into soul-destroying relationships


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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