It’s not easy being a famous child actor struggling to stay in show business after passing puberty. It’s even more difficult when that actor is a chimpanzee, Nick Jones imagines in his witty comedy Trevor, now playing at 1st Stage.
Trevor (Doug Wilder) is a local celebrity who once starred in a TV commercial and a special with the glamorous actress Morgan Fairchild (Amanda Forstrom). At 200 pounds, he’s far from the cute chimp he once was. And, at 11 and fast approaching chimpanzee adolescence, he’s potentially dangerous to others, such as new neighbor and mother Ashley (also Amanda Forstrom).
Caretaker “mom” Sandra (Leigh Jameson) is recently widowed and has a needy, codependent relationship with Trevor, or as she puts describes them, “Mommy and her little man.” Blind to the threat that he poses to others, to Sandra, Trevor is just a harmless child going through a rough patch who needs a creative outlet.
Like any parent and child, Trevor and Sandra have communication issues, the play’s source of comic gold. Trevor becomes charmingly exasperated with Sandra, stating: “You need to tell me things so I can understand them!”
Caught in between is friendly county sheriff Jim (Sun King Davis). He brings in animal control agent Jerry (Jacob Yeh) to do an assessment of Trevor’s suitability to live in a residence versus an animal park or zoo.
Trevor is a fine satire and commentary on the world of Hollywood. Like many child actors, Trevor blames casting agents for not seeing he is ready for mature roles. He has some funny advice on how to be a successful chimp actor and carries on imagined conversations with Morgan Fairchild and Oliver (Aaron Bliden), a white tuxedo-clad exemplar of a star chimp, complete with a human wife and half-chimp children.
Doug Wilder plays Trevor without costume assistance, using his long, loping arms, hunched posture, and convincing animal movements. He shows us a Trevor who is a hyper, frustrated, imaginative, and sensitive being.
The other cast members are given material with far less range and depth. Leigh Jameson plumbs the concerns of Sandra as she prepares for the crucial home visit that could result in the loss of her “child.” Amanda Forstrom and Aaron Bliden are amusing as the characters in Trevor’s flights of fancy.
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While the script is clever, it does have some flaws. Although the Hollywood satire is droll and insightful, the play spends too much time on Trevor’s show business longings. A violent climax that would have made a powerful ending is followed by a rambling, mostly unnecessary coda.
Director Alex Levy helps successfully draw out the different plot threads making Trevor an amusing bit of monkey business (sorry, couldn’t resist) This intelligent comedy with a dark conclusion – it was inspired by the true story of a chimpanzee named Travis which ended tragically – receives a fine regional premiere staging at 1st Stage.
Trevor by Nick Jones. Directed by Alex Levy. Featuring Aaron Bliden, Sun King Davis, Amanda Forstrom, Leigh Jameson, Doug Wilder, and Jacob Yeh. Set Design: Kathryn Kawecki. Costume Design: Collin Ranney. Additional Costume Design: Kathryn Kawecki. Lighting Design: Robbie Hayes. Sound Design: Sarah O’Halloran. Props Design: Cindy Landrum Jacobs. Fight Choreography: Patrick Kilpatrick. Stage Manager: Laurel Van Landingham. Assistant Stage Manager: Rocky Nunzio. Presented by 1st Stage. Reviewed by Steven McKnight.