We get ourselves through the monotony of daily life however we can. The stories told about high-school football are filled with bigger hits. The memory of our first kiss tastes a bit sweeter. We lie to ourselves simply because it’s often just easier to live the life we manufacture around us than the reality of the one in which we find ourselves. Trevor, a new play by Nick Jones currently at Theater for the New City, shows these self-loathing struggles, successfully touching on the goofy and poignant moments they bring.
Directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel, the story follows a 200-pound former showbiz chimpanzee named Trevor (Steven Boyer) and how he deals with post-fame life. (The play seems to takes inspiration from Travis the Chimp, the animal actor who gained fame by starring in commercials during the ’90s, and who eventually mauled his owner in 2009.) Trevor lives in tiny house in a small town with Sandra, a widow (Colleen Werthmann), and he constantly misbehaves and gets in trouble with the neighbors. Long prior to this life of bouncing on couches, he starred in a TV special with Morgan Fairchild (Geneva Carr). He wants nothing more than to abandon his washed-up life and return to Hollywood. But there’s one major obstacle: Not only can he not understand anyone, but nobody can understand him.
Boyer shines in his primate role. Rather than draping himself in a distracting monkey suit, the actor wears chimp mannerisms like a costume. He hunches, wobbling around the set, jumping on tables, and pounding his chest, yet somehow Boyer’s actions come across as natural, not over-the-top or sensationalized. From the moment the actor walks onstage, it’s obvious he’s a chimpanzee—and when you’re a short, goatee’d guy with red hair, that’s quite a feat.
Boyer and Werthmann’s relationship illustrates the separate worlds in which they live. Their characters share the same house, yes, but Trevor’s naive perception of things is vastly different from Sandra’s sober one (Trevor has visions of other chimps enjoying fame while Sandra fights off animal control). And because Trevor is played by an uncostumed human, this contrast is heightened even more, creating an underlying uneasiness. Watching the two bicker and literally not understand one word the other says points to common obstacles in all relationships. Trevor wishes to be something he’s not. Sandra wishes Trevor would accept himself. And once they finally do end up understanding each other, the complicated realizations are too wild to control.