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Theater review by Adam Feldman. Theater for the New City (Off-Off Broadway). By Nick Jones. Dir. Moritz von Stuelpnagel. With Steven Boyer, Colleen Werthmann. 1hr 20mins. No intermission.
In 2011’s Hand to God, Steven Boyer gave a virtuoso turn as a Christian teenager at war with his own satanic hand puppet. Now, reunited with director Moritz von Stuelpnagel, he offers another sublime tragicomic performance in Nick Jones’s sweet, clever and weirdly touching Trevor. With a slight hunch and a casual wobble, Boyer plays the title character: a burned-out chimpanzee who lives with his widowed keeper, Sandra (a tenderly steely Werthmann), in a small town far from the Hollywood glitz that Trevor once tasted. Sandra keeps a life-size cardboard cutout of his most famous onetime costar, Morgan Fairchild (Geneva Carr); he dreams of starring in another project with her, and has invidious imaginary encounters with a rival chimp actor, Oliver (Nathaniel Kent, barefoot in a suave white tuxedo). At age 11, however, Trevor is not as cute as he used to be, and a lot stronger physically; Sandra’s new neighbor (Amy Staats) worries, with reason, if it’s safe to live next door to a primate so bitterly past his prime.
Though the audience is privy to what Trevor says, the humans around him are not (and his understanding of them is riddled with amusing confusions). Jones and von Stuelpnagel explore this disparity with unassuming aplomb. Trevor’s absurdist admixture of showbiz satire and real-life poignancy is so continually delightful, in fact, that you may not notice, as it flows by, how resonant the story actually is: about child actors, and actors in general; about animal individuality and animal rights; about flawed communication between loved ones; about the complex elements that enter into “acting like a man.” Funny though it often is, Trevor is good for much more than a laugh.—Adam Feldman
Follow Adam Feldman on Twitter: @FeldmanAdam