I’m not sure who has it worse in Trevor, the latest Lesser America comedy to nestle into downtown’s Theater for the New City: is it Morgan Fairchild, that B-list sex kitten of yesteryear, or Trevor, the animalistic former child star whose quest to be rediscovered drives the play?
It’s neither fair nor even accurate to describe Trevor as “animalistic,” really, as the central character in Nick Jones’ clever, subversive comedy is indeed, an animal. He’s a chimp, not a man, despite his resemblance to Steven Boyer, the terrifically malleable actor (as anyone who has seen him in such works as Hand to God and The Ugly One can attest) playing him for both laughs and pathos. I haven’t just spoiled anything, either. One learns early on about Trevor’s true nature. And Jones is right in providing such a disclosure upfront, as there are plenty of other gifts to be found in Trevor, lovingly nourished by director Moritz von Stuelpnagel.
It’s likely that most actors will relate to Trevor, as the struggle for work isn’t limited to any particular series or phylum. When he was younger, Trevor was a successful animal performer, traveling the live appearance circuit and starring in popular commercials, as well as a TV sitcom alongside Ms. Fairchild. But like with so many child stars, the aging process hasn’t been easy on Trevor, who lives at home with his “mother,” Sandra (Colleen Werthman) and stews in the memory of what he used to be, even as fellow chimp actor Oliver (an on-the-beat Nathaniel Kent) continues to prosper. Poor Trevor wants to work and be adulated once more, but alas, hardly anyone comes calling for the simian.
And then, of course, there’s the fact that Trevor is, you know, an animal. This is starting to cause trouble in the neighborhood. His neighbor Ashley (a wonderfully frustrated Amy Staats), a new mother, objects to the fact that Trevor drove himself to a local Dunkin’ Donuts to apply for a job. Sandra is rendered relatively ineffective as both manager and caregiver. She occasionally puts Trevor in a cage, though Ashley argues that he should spend all of his time there, as he is an unpredictable threat – and some of Trevor’s instinctive responses to situations, as employed by an indefatigable Boyer, support her argument. But then again, Trevor can often function like an independent adult.
Jones’ script sounds silly, but as with all productions from Lesser America, still a very young company, Trevor gets a layered production, buoyed by complex scenarios and a completely committed cast. Trevor has life dreams, but is hampered by himself and by others. Sandra wants the best for him, and is sometimes blinded by her confused love (Werthman, like Boyer, never condescends to cartoonish acting and instead creates real empathy). No one can effectively reach each other – Trevor even fails to recognize an Animal Control employee, mistakenly identifying him, Norma Desmond-style, as a TV producer. Stuelpnagel is a perfect match for Jones’ voice, which sometimes plants tongue in cheek but still finds a way to home in on universal concerns. A streamlined show, Trevor toes the line between mordant humor and self-seriousness with aplomb. Sometimes it takes a chimp to shed real light on human nature.
Theater for the New City. www.theaterforthenewcity.net. Thru March 17.
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