Portraying the title character without any chimp costume or makeup, Doug Wilder adopts a lolling, crouching, simian physicality that drives home the acuteness of Trevor’s plight. (Teresa Castracane)
Communication problems irk many families, but Sandra and Trevor have it particularly bad. The two share heartfelt confidences about their fears and dreams, but each finds the other’s remarks almost entirely incomprehensible — possibly because Sandra is human and Trevor is a 200-pound chimpanzee.
The crosstalk ricochets to amusing and sometimes poignant effect in the 1st Stage production of “Trevor,” a tragicomedy by Nick Jones, who has written for “Orange Is the New Black.” In the play’s central conceit, the eponymous chimp expresses himself in English, just as Sandra does; we can understand him, while she can’t. Throughout director Alex Levy’s solid staging, however, words do just part of the work: Portraying the title character without any chimp costume or makeup, Doug Wilder adopts a lolling, crouching, simian physicality that — in conjunction with the character’s chatter — drives home the acuteness of Trevor’s plight.
Raised in the home of Sandra (Leigh Jameson), who cannot bear to lock him in his kennel, Trevor longs to get back to the showbiz career he had when he was a cute, baby chimp. Back then, he starred in a tax-software commercial alongside Morgan Fairchild (Amanda Forstrom), but he thinks he could do even better now: “I don’t fall into a type like some chimpanzees,” he points out. “I’m not always silly and I’m not always brooding. I have a full palette of emotions.”
Unfortunately, the neighbors aren’t as eager to see their primate acquaintance realize his full, free-roaming potential. They are particularly unhappy when Trevor borrows Sandra’s Corvette.
Contributing valuably to the sense of dark-comic crisis are the production’s set and props, designed by Kathryn Kawecki and Cindy Landrum Jacobs, respectively. Strewn around the suburban house, abandoned toys, crumpled newspapers, a deflated bean-bag chair and other unkempt furnishings testify to the chaos Trevor leaves in his wake.
From left, Doug Wilder, Leigh Jameson and Jacob Yeh in “Trevor” at 1st Stage. (Teresa Castracane/Teresa Castracane)
Moving bravely around the mess, Jameson’s Sandra is an affecting portrait of a woman in denial. Other key performances include Sun King Davis as a conflicted county sheriff, Forstrom as a distraught but steely neighbor, and Aaron Bliden as Oliver, a chimp who is Trevor’s smug friend and rival.
But it’s Wilder’s canny chimp-channeling that animates the production. When Trevor empties a box of crayons all over the room, or frenetically shakes a laptop, or lounges on the sofa with one of his legs indecorously crooked over its back, he’s drolly alien, and yet somehow much like us.
Trevor, by Nick Jones. Directed by Alex Levy; costume design, Collin Ranney; lighting, Robbie Hayes; sound, Sarah O’Halloran; fight choreography, Patrick Kilpatrick; additional costume design, Kathryn Kawecki. With Jacob Yeh. About 100 minutes. Tickets: $15 to $30. Through Feb. 26 at 1st Stage, 1524 Spring Hill Road, Tysons Corner. www.1ststage.org or 703-854-1856.
In “Trevor,” Doug Wilder’s chimpanzee character starred in a tax-software commercial alongside Morgan Fairchild (Amanda Forstrom). (Teresa Castracane/Teresa Castracane)Original Article