Theater: It Hurts To Laugh in “Trevor”

Trevor featuring Steven Boyer, Colleen Werthmann, and Shawn Randall Photo credit Hunter Canning

Photo/Hunter Canning

Poor Trevor: he can’t even get a job at Dunkin’ Donuts, so it’s no wonder that he enters with a bit of a waddle to his step, a bit of a hunch and droop, car keys awkwardly falling from his hands. Anxiety and frustration like his are just a few steps behind crippling depression, so you can forgive him for not being more apologetic about crashing Sandra’s car. Oh, yeah, and perhaps it has something to do with the fact that he’s a maturing 200-pound chimpanzee filled with the confusion of an erstwhile show-business career that asked him to act (and treated him) like a human being. Trevor begins as a comedy, one step away from Seth MacFarlane’s shock territory as Trevor (Steven Boyer) relates animal wisdom in human terms, noting that when on camera, one must “not poop, no matter how intense things get,” explaining that he’s “comfortable with nudity,” and that a tiger is stupid because it can’t smoke a cigarette on cue, what with “it’s stupid fucking paws.” Buoyed by Boyer’s bravura performance (talk about throwing oneself into a role: watch him leap atop furniture), the show dips into melodrama, for despite the fact that Trevor and his “mother,” Sandra (a magnificent Colleen Werthmann) are family, sharing meals together, they have no real way to communicate: Trevor cannot understand humans, they can’t understand him, even if they’re mourning the same thing. Ultimately, Trevor, which is loosely based on the true story of another chimpanzee, Travis, is a tragic morality play, with the forces of justice — a meek police officer, Jim, (Andy Nogasky) and an outsider from Animal Control, Jerry (Shawn Randall) — brought to bear on Trevor by a perhaps justly nervous new neighbor, Ashley (Amy Staats). The “man,” having been treated as such, is adrift:

[I can’t get work] because I don’t have an easily definable look; I mean I don’t fall into a type like some chimpanzees. I’m not always silly and I’m not always brooding, I have a full palette of emotions. You’d think people would be looking for someone with that kind of depth, of complexity, but nooo, not on television.

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