How To Eat Fried Worms, ComedySportz. Thomas Rockwell’s play–a faithful adaptation of his children’s book–centers around a bet that Billy (Joey Bland) can’t eat 15 worms in 15 days. The stakes are high–$50, the price of a minibike. As Billy acquires a taste for night crawlers, his opponents look for ever more clever ways to thwart his daily snacking.
Director Steph DeWaegeneer and cast tap into the powerful tools at their disposal: suspense, as sabotage plots are executed and foiled; spoofs of parent and child behavior; and the gross-out factor. But they don’t take these to extremes, and the result is entertaining enough but slightly dissatisfying. Yet the cast seems ready and willing to take risks. Jason Anfinsen as Billy’s father captures some classic facial and verbal dad-isms, my favorite being the “reading face”–oversize bifocals perched on end of nose, document at arm’s length, lips moving like an agitated goldfish. The boys wrestle and bust each other’s chops like real 11-year-olds, especially Bland, who gets extra points for dance moves and rope swinging. The others–although they’ve perfected certain child postures, like the pious “I’m talking to a grown-up” stance–could offer more character detail and make us see and hear children at every moment. Most important, they must convince us we’re witnessing actual worm consumption. I never thought I’d say this, but the show needs to be grosser.