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Monkeying Around: Catastrophic Theatre Brings ‘Trevor’ The Chimp to Life

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By Ryan M. Leach

The Catastrophic Theatre has been an artistic fixture in Houston for many years. The company has always been known for their entertaining, insightful, and edgy productions, and their newest show, Trevor, playing through March 4, is no exception.

Playwright Nick Jones makes a departure from his regular gig writing for Orange Is the New Black in order to bring this comedy—centered around a 200-pound chimp named Trevor—to the stage. The story, which was inspired by the real-life drama of a woman who was attacked by her pet chimpanzee, takes a look at the inner workings of the chimp, who aspires to return to his glory days as an animal actor on the stage and screen.

Openly gay actor Kyle Sturdivant is responsible for bringing this hilarious chimp and his bizarre story to life under the direction of Tamarie Cooper. “I play Trevor, a just-past-puberty chimp who longs to get back to Hollywood to be a star,” Sturdivant says. “It was inspired by the actual event of Travis the chimp and his owner, Sandra Harold. Trevor is not Travis though; I don’t rip anyone’s face off in this play, so please don’t let that scare you off. Also, I speak English. The audience is in on the premise and knows Trevor’s thoughts, but the humans in the play do not. It’s a classic comedy of misunderstandings at first, but then the misunderstandings start to grow more urgent and tragic.”

When asked about the challenges of playing a chimp in this production, he had this to say: “It’s the hardest show I have ever done. An actor trains their entire lives to get to a place where they can be in a moment, listen to their fellow actor, and have an honest reaction. Well, forget that. I’m a monkey, and I am not supposed to know what they are saying. I try to rely on facial cues and sounds as cues to respond as Trevor, but Kyle the actor does have to listen to what they are saying to get the cues right. It’s a delicate balance.”

Director Tamarie Cooper, a celebrated performer in her own right, has her hands full with this production. Although the premise of Trevor is funny enough on its own, it takes true talent to make that come alive on stage and capture the audience’s attention for a few hours. However, Sturdivant and Cooper have been doing this for a while now.

“I’ve been working with Tamarie for 18 years now,” Sturdivant says. “There’s not much that Tamarie and I haven’t been through. We’ve done this dance so often that we sometimes forget that other people in the cast might not understand our working relationship. Professional lines are blurred. I’m frustrated and yelling at her. She’s rolling her eyes at me. Not very professional I am sure, but I trust her so completely that it allows me to be honest about my insecurity and moody when I’ve had a bad day. This process really allows me to do my best work,” says the actor.”

What: Trevor
When: Thursday through Saturdays, through March 4.
Where: MATCH, 3400 Main Street
Details: For tickets and venue information, visit matchouston.org or call the box office at 713.521.4533. Ticket prices for all performances are pay-what-you-can with a suggested price of $35. The evening should prove to be hilariously entertaining and totally affordable to all. Chimps are welcome to attend as well.

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Ryan Leach

Ryan Leach is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine. Follow him on Medium at www.medium.com/@ryan_leach.
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