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Review: Trevor (A Red Orchid Theatre)

By Chicagotheaterbeat @chitheaterbeat

Review: Trevor (A Red Orchid Theatre)   

Written by Nick Jones  
Directed by Shade Murray 
A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells (map)
thru Dec 1  |  tickets: $25-$30   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
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Running gags turn sour in Midwest premiere


Review: Trevor (A Red Orchid Theatre)


A Red Orchid Theatre presents



Review by Lawrence Bommer

There’s an Animal Planet series about so-called animal lovers who keep dangerous pets, despite warnings from neighbors and authorities: In each episode it’s no surprise when the keeper (who can’t) or a friend gets hurt or dies. Though it aspires to the cuteness of such Dr. Doolittle stuff as “Harvey,” “Animal Farm,” “Mr. Ed,” “Charlotte’s Web,” “Go Ape,” and “The Wind in the Willows,” Nick Jones’ dark comedy Trevor—now in a troublesome Midwest premiere at A Red Orchid Theatre–is really closer to Edward Albee’s controversial The Goat (where a deluded practitioner of bestiality convinces himself that, not only does he love Sylvia, but the goat loves him!).

Review: Trevor (A Red Orchid Theatre)
Sandra (a feisty Mierka Girten) is a protector and enabler of the compulsively garrulous and potentially dangerous Trevor (Larry Grimm, delivering simian overkill), a temperamental 200-pound chimpanzee who she raised from infancy but who’s now stronger than is safe. The joke, such as it is, is that we understand what Trevor’s saying but the humans do not (except for sign language between owner and creature). Mostly, Trevor’s badinage is a showbiz soliloquy about how he wants to find fame making commercials with the likes of Morgan Fairchild (Loretta Rezos). (He has a SAG card, you know, and she appears to him to encourage his career.) We’re also to believe that Trevor recently stole Sandra’s car and crashed it on the front lawn–and at play’s end he’ll do it again and drive four miles with a kidnapped baby.

Of course, like all pit bull owners, co-dependent Sandra is convinced that Trevor could never hurt someone—but only because so far he hasn’t. (But then what happened to Sandra’s husband Jerome?) The plot depicts escalating encounters between Sandra (always seeking a “safe situation”) and her wisecracking showbiz primate and the outside world. That’s Ashley (Lindsey Pearlman), the wary neighbor with an available baby; a post-active cop (Noah Simon) hung up on procedure; an animal-control agent (Brandon St. Clair Saunders) who gets shot with his own tranquilizer gun; and a more or less imaginary Oliver (Colm O’Reilly), another performing chimp with a human wife and half-human kids who offers Trevor cautionary advice to be ignored.

At its best Trevor, which is loosely based on the horror story of the out-of-control chimp at an unregulated private zoo who tore off a woman’s face and ate her fingers, seems to spoof all the animal addicts who think that love levels all species. There’s pathos when the otherwise clueless Sandra protests, “You don’t throw an animal away when he’s no longer cute.” Fueled by loneliness, her loyalty is misguided but understandable.

Review: Trevor (A Red Orchid Theatre)
Review: Trevor (A Red Orchid Theatre)

Review: Trevor (A Red Orchid Theatre)
Review: Trevor (A Red Orchid Theatre)

The big problem with this PETA-mocking play is that it commits the same anthropomorphic fallacy on Trevor as Sandra’s demented domestication. Refusing to let an ape be a primate, Trevor projects onto Trevor a phony performing-arts persona, creating a running gag that turns sour as Jones’ crude comedy gets ugly as any Animal Planet terror tale. It tries to have it both ways—to paint a hopefully harmless Trevor as superior in suffering the stupidity of other bipeds and to trigger empty thrills by playing up a superstrong captive’s capacity to tear a human to pieces (which we know he can and fear he will). Has Trevor been underestimated all along or is he no more (or less) than everything we imagine him to be? Who’s wild and who’s mild? It’s a question that a less convoluted play might actually answer.

I don’t think there’s a touch light enough to make Trevor, with its uneven mélange of Hollywood in-jokes and tabloid titillation, both funny and true, despite Director Shade Murray’s merry ministrations. Trevor remains the latest example of a metastasizing genre—black (as in sick) comedies where other people’s problems are screamingly funny because nary a shred of sympathy spoils the satire.


Rating: ★★



Trevor continues through December 1st at A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm.  Tickets are $25-$30, and are available by phone (866-811-4111) or online through (check for half-price tickets at More information at  (Running time: 90 minutes, includes an intermission)

Review: Trevor (A Red Orchid Theatre)

Photos by Michael Brosilow 




Mierka Girten (Sandra), Larry Grimm (Trevor), Colm O’Reilly (Oliver), Loretta Rezos (Morgan Fairchild), Brandon St. Clair Saunders (Jerry/AD), Noah Simon (Jim), Lindsey Pearlman (Ashley).

behind the scenes

Shade Murray (director), William Boles (set design), Christine Pascual (costume design), Matt Gawryk (lighting design), Brando Triantifilou (sound design), Kirsten Fitzgerald (fight choreographer). Heather Sultz (chimp coach), Michael Brosilow (photos)


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