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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Edgy, unconventional dark comedy — 'Trevor' at 1st Stage theater in Tysons

Doug Wilder in "Trevor." [Teresa Castracane]
By David Siegel

A rewarding tale about miscommunication in a family that generates plenty of laughs before a heart-wrenching turn of events makes “Trevor” a moving exploration of one family’s unusual bonds. The play can be seen at 1st Stage in Tysons Corner through Feb. 26.

Inspired by true events, “Trevor” was written by Nick Jones, who wrote for the initial season of the vanguard television series, “Orange is the New Black.” Directed by Alex Levy, “Trevor” is a sharp production revealing layers of sentiments. Levy has a keen touch with the boisterous, then steers the production into taut, tense events.

“Trevor” examines how a family of two individuals living in a small town can depend on each other mightily. They have many misunderstandings since they don’t fully understand one another’s language.

After all, Trevor is a 200-pound chimpanzee (played with a rambunctious, rowdy gusto by Doug Wilder). When he was younger, the audience learns, he was a celebrity performing with Morgan Fairchild (appearing as an apparition from a come-hither Amanda Forster).

Trevor’s owner is the middle-aged, widowed Sandra (Leigh Jameson completely losing herself in the role as a resolute, protective, conflicted woman). As Trevor’s owner, Sandra presents herself as a forgiving “mommy.” When Trevor acts out early on, she forgives him saying, “he is just having a bad day.” Later, just having a bad day is an understatement for Trevor’s behavior.

Beyond Sandra and Trevor, the show’s characters include a terrified neighbor who fears for her baby’s life, as well as one of Sandra’s few human friends and a local animal control officer. Each tests the tight connections between Trevor and Sandra. And Trevor also commiserates from time-to-time with a jaunty, imaginary chimp friend named Oliver (Aaron Bliden).

The production takes place on a set designed by Kathryn Kawecki with a worn, rustic look and well-used props from Cindy Landrum Jacobs. Collin Ranney’s costume design also gives off a worn-down essence.

The play’s sound design by Sarah O’Halloran is mood-setting, beginning with preshow music with melancholy banjo tunes from Abigail Washburn and Bela Fleck. Titles included “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” and “What’cha Gonna Do.”

For those open to it, 1st Stage’s “Trevor” is an empathetic production about human and animal intersections. It will test an audience’s sympathies with its final heartbreaking images and words. Who bears responsibility is left to the audience.

Where and When: “Trevor” at 1st Stage, 1524 Spring Hill Road, Tysons. Performances through Feb. 26. Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets: $15-$30. Purchase tickets online or call 703-854-1856. The venue is wheelchair accessible.

This piece originally appeared in The Connection.

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