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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Working for the Mouse Doesn't Quite Work

Posted By on Wed, Nov 9, 2011 at 8:00 AM

click to enlarge Trevor Allen as the man behind the Disney mask in his solo show, Working for the Mouse. - CHESHIRE ISAACS
  • Cheshire Isaacs
  • Trevor Allen as the man behind the Disney mask in his solo show, Working for the Mouse.

When he was on the clock at Disneyland two decades ago, Trevor Allen didn't just take his work seriously. "I was Pluto," says the solo performer. If nothing else, Working for the Mouse, Allen's account of his tenure of waving and signing autographs in four-fingered gloves, shows what a compelling "casual seasonal pageant helper" Allen must have been.

But it doesn't show enough of who he is now-- or at least much of the distance he's surely achieved since then. The 80-minute piece, which just opened at the Exit under the direction of Nancy Carlin, feels like the story an unquestioning seventeen-year-old Disney fanatic would have written. Allen might be an enthusiastic Mouseketeer. He never convincingly tells us why a college kid would still be so entranced by the magic of the Magic Kingdom that he'd be willing to stuff himself inside a full-body suit in 110-degree heat, only to be told by kids, "I don't believe in you," and asked by adults, "Is it hot in there?" 

The lack of sophisticated storytelling is evident from the beginning. Allen continually interrupts his actual story with so many expository asides--"It's five days later," "I'm sitting at a desk"--that it's tough to remember what was supposed to be happening once he finally recommences.

Not that the stock characters who, in his telling, populate the backstage of the happiest place on earth are necessarily worth the effort. There's the regulation blond-haired, blue-eyed hottie (Alice in Wonderland), the surfer dude who's cross-eyed with stupidity (Captain Hook), and the world-weary, wisecracking midget, who speaks with a gruff East Coast accent, smokes cigars and calls Allen, "kid" (Donald Duck).

And then there's Allen the seventeen-year-old, who sees his life as a cartoon. He walks with a Mickey Mouse swagger whether on the clock or not. His gestures are restless and overly demonstrative, as though Allen the adult trusts the audience neither to infer what his character is feeling nor to stay interested if he's not constantly animated.

The drama, too, is more storyboard than story-- more Saturday morning television than sharply honed autobiographical solo show. When he's about to put the moves on Alice in Wonderland, who's just told him she sees him as a "little brother," he falls out of the tree they're sitting in. When he picks himself up, you can practically see the birds and stars floating around his head.

Despite the lack of depth, Allen clearly has a lot of heart. You leave the theater wondering if any job he's had since then has gotten him so passionate. That feeling, however, is decidedly not contagious.

Working for the Mouse continues through Dec. 17 at the EXIT Theatre, 156 Eddy (at Mason), S.F. Admission is $20 - $22.

For more events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook.

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Lily Janiak

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