We can thank pharmaceutical companies for a lot of things: vaccinations, the US Opioid Epidemic, and making life-saving medications prohibitively expensive in order to turn some of the largest profits in the world. It turns out they’re also working on creating super humans!
A representative from Pfizer (Levi Meltzer) welcomes audiences to his somewhat unusual consumer marketing survey turned television drama audition. He has brought three examples of the super humans Pfizer has been working on and is relying on audience feedback to choose which two will be cast in his upcoming television show based on the hit series Girls. The third laboratory human will be killed to become a heaven for worms. And they cannot know about each other for fear it would spoil the experiment. Over the course of the survey, the three lab humans Tim Dunk, Mike Yankie, and the brother of musician Win Butler (all Tim Dunk) take centre stage to try to win over the audience and secure their future.
The premise? Incredibly odd. The characters? Even odder. Tim Dunk began with a gentle opening, a stand-up set he prepared from inspiration from his all-time favourite comedian Pete Holmes from his all-time favourite television show HBO’s Crashing. He was introduced to HBO’s Crashing through the laboratory doctor who he views as a friendly father-figure because he cares for him. This soft, sweet laboratory human contrasted significantly with Mike Yankie, a gruff, loud lab human who loves baseball and is training to try-out for the New York Mets. If Tim and Mike were easily recognisable types of guys, then the third laboratory human was equally recognisable as the pretentious, artsy type who sits at the side of the classroom and sighs a lot. Kirk Butler only wanted to discuss his manuscript and offer autographs, so his time on-stage was brief.
The structure of Heaven for Worms (for people) was simple with some unexpected additions from a planted audience member with an on-hand catalogue of Scooby-Doo-themed ballads to entertain the audience as Dunk’s characters rotated off-stage. Other than the incredibly kooky characters Dunk constructed for his three laboratory humans, the performances were most impressive for Dunk’s ability to quickly endear himself to the audience whether through vulnerable naivety, husky enthusiasm, or undeniable self-interest. The jokes were less predictably delivered as stand-up but rather buried in layers of discomfort and disbelief in the relationship between the audience and the laboratory humans.
The characters and their somewhat open approaches to their stage-time allowed Dunk to adapt easily to the reactions of his audience and that gave the performances an organic spirit. It would be interesting, though, to see Dunk’s unexpected creativity and the sinister undercurrent of his performance challenged by a stricter structure and more stream-lined delivery.
Heaven for Worms (for people) ran at the Factory Theatre from August 31st – September 2nd as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival
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