BWW Reviews: Brilliant, Yet Frustrating TREVOR

Trevor/written by Nick Jones/directed by Stella Powell-Jones/Atwater Village Theatre/thru April 19, 2015

A stellar cast gives their all in the West Coast premiere of Nick Jones' smartly written Trevor. Jimmi Simpson embodies his character of Trevor, an 11-year-old chimpanzee with a child-like humanness, not unlike a human youngster with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Simpson masters Trevor's tunnel vision of thinking and his focused interests distractable in split seconds. His movements totally suggest those of his chimp character. Simpson's scenes with Sandra, his caretaker/mom figure, frustrate as they should as their intimate yet difference in languages (human vs. ape) provide a wide disconnect in communication. Laurie Metcalf revels in her tricky, yet relatable role as Sandra, basically a mother who'll do anything to fend for her child Trevor.

When Trevor takes Sandra's car for a spin ending on their neighbor Ashley's lawn, Ashley and reality come knocking on Sandra's front door. As Mary Elizabeth Ellis so rightly plays the newbie-to-town Ashley; she's the most level-headed, concerned citizen, caring mother, cautious neighbor, any little town could have. The lone voice of reason in this cast of real and imaginary only-in-Trevor's-head characters, Ashley must balance her compassion for Sandra's unique situation with her own valid concerns for her newborn's safety. The town's law enforcement's brought in, in the person of Officer Jim (ably limned by Jim Ortlieb). As Jim has had Trevor dressed up as a minister at his daughter's wedding, Jim's hesitant to drastically change Trevor's living arrangements with Sandra; that is, until Trevor happens to pull Jim's gun from his holster.

Trevor's claim to fame was his co-starring role years ago in a commercial with Morgan Fairchild, played wonderfully broad and camp by Brenda Strong. So obsessed with Morgan Fairchild, a life-sized cardboard cut-out of her remains a potent tool Sandra uses to calm Trevor down. Flashback scenes of this commercial shoot have Fairchild and the P.A. speaking jibberish in communicating with Trevor. The effective Malcolm Barrett has the unrewarding role of P.A. and later as Jerry, the thankless animal specialist called in to evaluate Trevor's condition.

Any scenes Metcalf has a voice in make for incredible scenes. But the best scenes for Simpson's Trevor are those with his fellow primate Oliver-hysterically essayed by Bob Clendenin. The two chimps (speaking the same language) really have complete conversations with each other exchanging complete thoughts with Oliver passing on his experienced advice.

This very dark comedy (solidly directed by Stella Powell-Jones) as projected does not have a happy ending --especially not with the uncommon credit to "Violence Designer-Ned Mochel." Kudos to Stephanie Kerley Schwartz for her detailed, rustic set design of Sandra and Trevor's lived-in living quarters with cage in the backyard.

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From This Author Gil Kaan