MAP Theater has an amazing knack for finding and producing stories that are ridiculous yet entertaining in this absolute way. Most recently they produced “Year of the Rooster,” which brought up the topic of toxic masculinity using cock fighting and talking roosters.
Now, in “Trevor,” we meet an anthropomorphic chimpanzee (Brandon Ryan) who’s past his prime. He was a TV star & local celebrity but he’s no longer cute and harmless. He’s hit puberty: his genitals are engorged and so is his rage. His adoptive human mother, played by the talented Teri J. Lazzara, refuses to let him go.
The play opens with Trevor storming into the house toting his mother’s keys. He’s just taken the car a mile down the road to Dunkin Donuts, looking to audition for a television commercial. He didn’t get the gig.
Over the next forty-two minutes of the first act, we watch daily life become more strained, dangerous, and difficult for Trevor and his mother.
Photos by Shane Regan.
Ryan weaves a complex narrative for his character that creates a strong sympathy for his situation. He glides between different stages of manic behavior with ease. At times I forgot he was an animal among humans. His chimpanzee mannerisms are subtle yet specific: the way he curls his fingers and knuckles as he rests, the way his voice dips into the guttural “ooh.”
The play is a barrel of monkey laughs, thanks to Trevor’s penchant for human behavior and Ryan’s commitment to physical comedy. Another high point is the appearance of Morgan Fairchild, played by Zenaida Smith, whose performance is over the top and perfectly paired with Trevor’s mania.
Although the play is lighthearted, the story itself is grave – a chimpanzee who is becoming violent and a caretaker who refuses to face the facts until it’s too late. As I watched Trevor the chimp ransack his own house in either euphoric or rage-fueled rampages, I was stoned with this question: how much bad behavior are we willing to put up with from the ones we love?
Trevor continually tries to reach past his animal urges and be considered “full human,” a fate he will never achieve. In the process, Ryan builds this explorative character that reflects both on human relationships and humans’ imbalanced relationship with animals.
Tension in Trevor’s world continues to build in the second act, and the cast handles the final climactic scene with grace and ease. The entire experience is immersive despite the ridiculous terms of the script. As always, Ryan’s performance is the highlight – the care he puts into demonstrating the details of his character and his ability to display an expansive range of emotion always a joy to watch.
The script, the cast, and the jokes combined with MAP’s pay-what-you-can price model makes it an easy decision: “Trevor” is a worthwhile way to spend your weekend night. Bring a couple of friends and you’ll have a wealth of conversation for hours to come.
“Trevor” is showing at 18th & Union through March 30th. Buy tickets online or at the door.