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In delightful ‘Trevor,’ her roommate really is an animal

MierkGirten Larry Grimm star “Trevor” A Red Orchid Theatre.

Mierka Girten and Larry Grimm star in “Trevor” at A Red Orchid Theatre.

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‘TREVOR’

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

When: Through Dec. 1

Where: A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells

Tickets : $20-$30

Info: (312) 943-8722; www.aredorchidtheatre.org

Run time: 95 minutes with one intermission

Updated: November 23, 2013 6:14AM



‘Trevor,” Nick Jones’ hugely entertaining tragicomedy, now in a knockout production by A Red Orchid Theatre, is no Jane Goodall story, although the principal characters in this wonderfully demented tale of codependency are a chimpanzee and his female “keeper.”

Jones’ story is loosely based on an actual 2009 event involving an exceptionally gifted “show biz chimp” who was raised from infancy by a Connecticut couple, and literally went ape later in life. But the genius of his play is how he has so cleverly humanized both characters. This could easily be the story of a lonely woman whose life is devoted to the care and feeding of a manic-depressive, attention-demanding but undeniably gifted son — a “guy” long down on his luck, and far too old to be living with mom. Of course mom’s need for Trevor is a case all its own.

The suburban home shared by Trevor (Larry Grimm in an uncannily brilliant, tour-de-force performance) and his keeper, Sandra (Mierka Girten, with an expressive face full of desperation and ingenuity), has a lived-in look, with a rather forbidding “cagelike” fence in the backyard, boxes of Pampers in one corner and a pink tricycle in another. (Applause for William Boles’ set.) The car keys are hidden, but Trevor still manages to go off on joy rides.

But problems have arisen. Sandra’s neighbor, Ashley (Lindsey Pearlman, perfect as the play’s sanest character), is terrified Trevor will harm her baby. And while the chimp is much beloved in town, complaints have been filed. And the authorities (Noah Simon as sheriff, Brandon St. Clair Saunders as animal control guy) think it might be time to remove him from the home.

The only way to distract such negative attention is to get Trevor’s career back on track. And in one of Jones’ most inspired running gags, the chimp is just like many television actors who find themselves washed up and out of vogue, even if he once did commercials with Morgan Fairchild (Loretta Rezos is perfect as the actress who made him her “special friend”) and is mentored by an old show biz pal, Oliver (curly-haired Colm O’Reilly), a chimp happily married to a human wife until recently. Need I say more? I will not.

Grimm, fleet and gaunt-faced, arrives onstage in rosy pink overalls and a fez (cheers to costume designer Christine Pascual), assuming the body language of a chimp with panache. But he could just as easily pass for a guy going nowhere, despite reminders to Sandra that he is “the man of the house.”

Director Shade Murray and his cast nail the play’s blackly comic soul. As for Jones, currently a staff writer on Netflix’s hit TV series “Orange Is the New Black,” he is hereby commanded to return to the theater ASAP.

Email: hweiss@suntimes.com

Twitter: @HedyWeissCritic



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