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Animal Drama

Members of the animal kingdom may pop up occasionally in shows (here’s looking at you, Annie) but these appearances are usually simple and little more than “awwww”-inducing.

And yet! Trevor (by Nick Jones at Lesser America/TFNC) takes a different tack, placing a chimpanzee dead center of its wild story. How exactly is this managed? By casting a human in the part. (Diversity advocates Animal Equity are surely up in arms about the decision.)

Picture 11Actor Steven Boyer inhabits the primate with little more than a waddle and gimp arms. Costume designer Elizabeth Barrett Groth continues with the minimalist approach, clothing Boyer not in fur but a polo and overalls. The suggestion of animal-ness rather a declaration of it avoids prosthetics and leaves much of the imaginative work to the audience.

Picture 10

Picture 12

The recent Bengal Tiger at the Bagdhad Zoo functioned similarly: As the titular tiger of this Broadway show, Robin Williams looked basically human at first glance; it was only through the text, Williams’s performance, and a scraggly beard that the tiger-ness shone through. (Oh yeah—and the title.)

Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo

But the 2005 Broadway revival of Seascape took the opposite approach, outfitting its lizards in costumes that aimed for intense verisimilitude.

Seascape Broadway revival

Which do you think is the more effective approach? And what do you make of other tactics for depicting animals onstage, like the puppetry used in War Horse or The Lion King? Inscribe below!

Trevor photos by Hunter Canning

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– Fleet Week on Broadway
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