Kyle Sturdivant in Catastrophic Theatre's production of Trevor. George Hixson
Instead, Nick Jones’s play focuses on the backstory, the “almost love story” according to Cooper, between the chimp and his human mom, Sandra, a widow who raised him as her own child. If you were at all cognizant in 2009, you’ll remember Travis, a 200-pound chimpanzee – and former TV and commercial star – whose brutal attack on a woman resulted in one of the world’s first facial transplants. But Tamarie Cooper, director of Catastrophic Theatre’s production of Trevor, inspired by these events, wants to be clear: “This play isn’t staging that act. This play is not a retelling of that story.”
Cooper says the details of their real-life counterparts’ lives – Travis ate at the dinner table with owner Sandra Herold, drank wine and occasionally drove the car – allow Jones to question just what it means to be human and just “how much of our animal instincts we basically suppress just to be on this planet functioning as humans.”
“This is all she has left,” says Cooper, “this relationship with this chimpanzee that is dangerous when you see that they have this love for each other, but she is willing to deny that he is a wild animal.”
Though Sandra and others approach Trevor, played by Catastrophic regular Kyle Sturdivant, as a simple child, and he may be fascinated with a shiny object or a stuffed toy, his inner thoughts, which the audience is privy to, show he is ego-driven; a frustrated, out-of-work actor. Cooper says Trevor’s attempt to straddle the line between the animal and human world is deeply confusing for him.
With their level of intelligence, Cooper admits it would be easy to see a chimp as human, but without the social structure, hierarchy and rules they learn in the wild, they are unable to read cues, like another’s aggressive behavior.
The opportunities for miscommunication make for a pretty risky gamble for Sandra, and a lot of suspense, but Cooper says, on an even deeper level, Trevor explores “those moments when you’re in a relationship, no matter if you’re both human, no matter how much you love someone, you can still not hear them.”
Performances are scheduled for February 10 through March 4 at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at The MATCH, 3400 Main. For information, call 713-521-4533 or visit catastrophictheatre.com. Pay what you can; suggested price is $35.