BWW Review: The Dark Comedy TREVOR is not Monkeying Around at Theatre Downtown
Nick Jones gains inspiration for his award winning scripts from the most unlikely of sources. His work writing for the Netflix shows Orange is the New Black and GLOW give him credit to find humor no matter the situation. This is the case with his play Trevor now playing at Theatre Downtown. When you hear the names Sandra Herold and Travis, one might think they are a singing duet or the name of an ABC sitcom. The truth is back in 2009 these two were at the center of tragedy. Herold was the owner (mind I didn't say trainer) of a 200 pound show-biz chimpanzee named Travis who attacked Herold's friend. Trevor is a play loosely molded with this premise into an engaging dark comedy that gets you laughing and thinking about toxic about relationships. It's much more than a story about a chimpanzee. Trevor is an unapologetic look at the cause and effects of putting unrealistic expectations on people that can never deliver.
Jarrod Funderburg dives into the role of Trevor by delivering simian attributes and heavy human emotion; running the gambit from blind naiveté to blind rage. Trevor is no longer the cute and cuddly chimp from his old days on variety shows of the likes of Sonny and Cher and Barbara Mandrel. He's now an adult chimpanzee wracked with cabin fever and dreams to get back to Hollywood. Funderburg's commitment to the physicality of the role is non-stop. Trevor speaks to the audience directly but the humans in his life hear nothing but screeches. Not every exchange is comical. Trevor goes into some dark areas and creates rising tension as the play progresses. Funderburg supplies a great deal of energy into making Trevor relatable and layered with emotions.
Penny Thomas delivers a touching performance as Travis's owner, the tragically lonely Sandra. Her need for love and acceptance has thoroughly distorted her judgment in caring for Trevor. She sees him not as full-grown adult animal but as a life companion. Sandra is horribly frustrated because everyone does not see Trevor as she does. She sees him capable of human compassion and reason; neither of which is true. Sandra believes Trevor as merely a frustrated young actor who needs coddling to get back on his feet. The heavy emotion Thomas supplies into the role holds the heart of the audience from her first scene. You feel for her as the veil gets pulled away from her eyes and she confronts her own insecurities.
Trevor is visited throughout the play by his muse and star of TV's Falcon Crest, Morgan Fairchild. The hilarious and glam Chuck Duck brings Morgan Fairchild to life in glorious Technicolor. His expressive stage presence and seamless comedic delivery breathes wonderfully funny moments without it becoming campy. Catherine Champion plays Ashley, the new neighbor and mom. She voices safety concerns about Trevor. Her frequent complaints about his noisy antics and late night joy rides fall on Sandra's deaf ears. Champion conveys much emotion in the delivery, especially when things go south for the mother in crisis. The cast is rounded out with Lee Green giving voice to the low key town sheriff and Nathan Merrit as Jerry, the concerned agent from animal control. Maxx Gunn gives a hilarious performance as Trevor's thespian chimp colleague Oliver. The banter between Gunn and Funderburg is comedy gold. The writing brings many laughs as you eavesdrop on the conversations of two gifted actors playing animals who are bitching about life being animal actors.
Director Rhonda Erbrick paved a solid foundation of pacing and emotional delivery from the actors. The scenes are carefully structured to convey the complexities of each character. Erbrick brings care to the razor thin line of comedy and depression. It's not all bananas and cowboy hats. The play has many moments when you feel like you are witnessing an intervention. Trevor is a strong play that exposes the gambit of feelings that surface when realizing the truth and the struggle of acceptance
Theatre Downtown Presents - Trevor
Written by Nick Jones / Directed by Rhonda Erbrick
September 7-23 - (Thurs, Fri, Sat ) / 8pm - $15
2410 5th Ave S, (in Fifth Ave Antiques)
Birmingham, AL 35233
For tickets and more info - theatredowntown.org or (205) 565-8838
(Photo credit: Steven Ross)