‘Trevor’ is a surprisingly sensitive, often hilarious story of a Hollywood ape

Capital T Theatre has a very successful history of producing comedies that are still able to strike an emotional cord with audiences, and with their production of “Trevor”, Nick Jones’ fictionalized tale of the latter days of the famed Hollywood ape, they’ve created one of their most surprising, emotionally satisfying works. Much like last years’ “Year of the Rooster”, director Mark Pickell, leading a group of Austin best comedic talents, makes us care for the plight of a simple animal.

Almost by its very nature, “Trevor” provides plenty of room for comedy, so it would easy for the play to take the lazy route and create a simple, funny ape story. The true wonder in Jones’s play is the intelligence of its writing. Even though his main character is a chimpanzee, he’s not played wholly for laughs. Instead, Jones is interested in exploring Trevor as a well-rounded individual, showing us his desires, his processes, his habits, his dreams. This is paramount in creating something special from the work, from elevating it above so much farce, pulling true emotion from the life of such a simple creature.

This isn’t to say “Trevor” isn’t funny: it certainly is. Whether it’s the way our titular character interacts with the human characters, or the human characters’ misinterpretations of Trevor’s actions, there’s plenty of humor mined throughout. Jason Newman draws out plenty of hilarious moment as Trevor, truly becoming one with the Hollywood ape, taking on his physicality and mannerisms with aplomb, without making anything feel forced. Though one can’t say they forget they’re watching an actor on stage and not a chimp, by play’s end, he’s taken on Trevor’s identity as best as an actor could. The laughs only intensify when Judd Farris appears, playing Trevor’s idol, friend, and fellow Hollywood chimp, Oliver. Farris finds the perfect measure of intellectual goofiness to play off Newman’s charming naivete, creating a gut-busting dynamic whenever the two share a scene.

The laughs were expected in “Trevor”, but what was truly surprising is the heart contained within the play. Thanks to the combination of sharp, surprisingly deep writing, and sensitive performances from its leads, we begin to deeply care about Trevor and his keeper, and as the play reaches its conclusion, and we see the relationship between the two could be torn asunder, you can’t help but tear up a bit. Rebecca Robinson, in particular, plays Trevor’s harried keeper, Sandra, with remarkable sensitivity, a sensitivity she has shown audiences before in plays as recent as Hyde Park’s “Realistic Jones”, which here sharpens to a fine point, digging deep into the heart of the audience and striking it with a palpable sorrow.

When I went into “Trevor”, I never expected I would be in tears at play about a Hollywood ape, but “Trevor” is a surprising show in many ways. While from the premise, one would expect a broad comedy, what writer Jones has created is something more personal, closer to a humorous tragedy than the expected farce. The play still provides plenty of laughs, however, and director Pickell does a fine job keeping the tone at such a pitch that keeps the audience laughing, while still leaving them with something to think about.

Photo Courtesy of of Wes Raiit

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