A review of Seattle Repertory Theatre’s premiere of Justin Huertas’ “Lizard Boy.”
In Seattle Repertory Theatre’s premiere of “Lizard Boy,” Justin Huertas manages to sing, dance and play cello at the same time, while portraying a humanoid reptile with cryptic powers and a Woody Allen-ish bundle of neuroses. And speaking of multi-tasking: It happens in a musical play Huertas also wrote and composed.
Even when the herky-jerky fantasy aspect of “Lizard Boy” stops making sense, which is quite often, its writer-composer-star is a charmer. And, as with co-stars Kirsten deLohr Helland and William A. Williams, his versatility is impressive.
Ah, but the script. Developed over years with help from the late Seattle Rep artistic director Jerry Manning and others, it’s still a slapdash affair, a hodgepodge in need of tighter focus and less reliance on Seattle-centric, fringe-workshop quirkiness.
Written and composed by Justin Huertas. Through April 26, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Seattle Center; $16-$52 (206-443-2222 or seattlerep.org).
Huertas plays Trevor, a sad-sack young sketch artist who has imaginary chats with his favorite comic-book heroes and enigmatic nightmares about a blazing rocker vixen (Siren, played by Helland).
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One has to imagine Trevor’s scaly green skin. The skintone sure doesn’t help his social life, and it’s a tinted hint of Marvel Comics mayhem to come.
“Lizard Boy” opens with Trevor still blue over being ditched by his first lover a year before. If you don’t know what Grindr is, let’s just call it a sexually explicit gay-dating site Trevor posts on in hopes of finding the man who got away.
That leads to a lengthy, initially reluctant rendezvous with a horny stranger: Cary (Williams), a lonely Belltowner so ludicrously eager to hook up he’s cavorting in his undies when Trevor arrives.
“Lizard Boy” milks the comic mismatch of the absurdly naive Trevor’s deadpan response to sweet, clueless Cary’s clownish seduction moves, a satire of gay dynamics which had the opening-night audience howling with laughter. Meanwhile, in flash-forwards (or flash-sideways?) the fantasy plot and its comic villainess are introduced.
Meshing a shy gay romance with a mock “Dungeons & Dragons” scenario holds promise. And Huertas is a font of hip Generation Text humor. Pop references to the likes of Nickelodeon, “Star Wars” and (Seattle drag performer) Jinkx Monsoon dot the show, as do pleasantly hooky numbers in the mode of hip youth musicals (like “Spring Awakening,” “Rent”), and current hit-pop tunes. (The chorus of “Take Me to Bed” is a ringer for Hozier’s “Take Me to Church.”)
Director Brandon Ivie cleverly employs minimal props and handmade effects in his antic staging, which integrates musical numbers with the cast adeptly juggling ukulele, cello, piano, kazoo riffs and dandy vocal harmonies.
Poured by costume designer Erik Andor into red satin leggings, and sporting a frizzled Jean Harlow ’do, Helland’s Siren is a shot of Adrenalin as a jaded punk diva on a mission. Whether belting glory notes or chomping on gummy worms, she’s ferocious and funny.
After sizing each other up, Siren and Trevor uncover a shared childhood connection to a Mount St. Helens eruption and a bloody dragon. Could a dragon-apocalypse be imminent? Will Siren’s superpowers beat it back? Should Trevor join forces with her? A biff-bam-pow rumble with musical instruments as weapons is kinda nifty, but resolves nothing.
Even a campy horror cartoon needs some dramatic coherence. And there are plot holes in “Lizard Boy” big enough for a T-Rex to charge through, as the show rummages for an ending.
If only those cool projections of comic heroes in L.B. Morse’s shifting fantasia backgroup would help us figure out more of what’s going down, and why. Too bad novice playwright Huertas and his collaborators haven’t figured it all out first.