He Really Does Look Like a Lizard
Review of Lizard Boy at Seattle Repertory Theatre by Vida Behar
Before Lizard Boy even begins the actors are milling around on stage, tuning their instruments, one of them half-dancing to the ambient acoustic indie rock playing over the speakers. Admittedly, it’s confusing at first, but after realizing this is an artistic choice by the director, it sets the tone as quite intimate for the rest production.
This hilarious comic book musical—written, composed, and starring Justin Huertas as Trevor—tells the story of a boy who hasn't left his apartment in a year in the wake of a bad breakup. But in the process of looking for his ex-boyfriend on Grindr (an app like Tinder for gay male hookups), he has an adorably awkward encounter with Cary, played by William A. Williams.
The (pretty big) caveat is that Trevor looks like a lizard. He was transformed from the blood of the dragons slain in the wake of the eruption on Mount St. Helens when he was in third grade. The lizard-ness is conveyed through a subtle dusting of glitter and illustrations projected onto a postered section of the set’s back wall in comic book style depicting, say, a scaly green hand holding an iPhone opened to the Grindr app. This incorporation of projection into the musical is surprisingly effective, adding rather than detracting to the experience of the performance.
The set is superb, with the back wall half-covered in posters and the other parts looking like rusted metal. The stage is filled with “awesome junk,” as Trevor (aka Lizard Boy) calls it, including at least three ukuleles, a battered-looking piano, several large trunks that are later revealed to have wheels on them, and a lot of fascinating clutter overall. But thankfully it’s not so much that it distracts from the performance.
One will undoubtedly appreciate the numerous allusions to Seattle life and culture. Trevor greets the day by talking to some of his sketches pinned to his bedroom wall saying, ”Jinx Monsoon, good morning,” and we see the face of Siren, the female antagonist played by Kirsten Helland, on a copy of The Stranger laying in Cary’s apartment. Several scenes take place at notable Seattle locations, including the Crocodile, the Olympic Sculpture Park, and Dick’s. A notable reference to the latter is seen in a conversation between Trevor and Cary:
“Do you want to go to Dicks? You do like Dick’s don't you?”
”Yeah, I do. I like Dick’s when I’m drunk best,”
“I like Dick’s when I’m drunk too, or sober. I like Dick’s pretty much all the time, actually.”
The costumes are incredible, particularly Siren’s costume of bright red, satin high-waisted disco pants, red stiletto booties, and a cropped fur coat that looks like it’s bleeding red glitter. We can all take style tips from Siren.
The instrumentation of Lizard Boy and how it incorporates music even when a full-blown musical number isn't occurring is delightful. For example, the Grindr conversation between Trevor and Cary is told with ukulele strums as “sent” notifications. The sound effects are all made by the actors on stage. There is a copious amount of kazoo and xylophone in several songs, and the fight scene is done using musical instruments as weapons. The unique rock voice of Siren is mesmerizing, as is Huerta’s cello.
Lizard Boy has a uniquely minimalist approach in that it has only three cast members, who are all on stage pretty much the entire time, regardless of whether or not they're actually part of the scene. The story isn’t told in a necessarily chronological way, nor does it follow a clear arc, instead jumping back and forth between scenes and semi-contradicting itself multiple times, bringing into question the variability of the narrative itself as seen by Trevor.
There is no resolution whatsoever and when it was over I asked myself “Is that it? Is it over now?” While this is incredibly frustrating, I still walked away feeling like I had seen an incredible production, and this unique, non-linear progression further cemented the theme of magical realism that began with the fact that Trevor is a boy who looks like a lizard, a metaphor for Huerta’s own experience as a Filipino.
Lizard Boy is superb, at once deep and probing and hilarious, relatable (for some of us, at least), and incredibly entertaining. While parts may be inappropriate for younger audiences (the thinly veiled penis innuendo was just the tip of the sexual reference iceberg), Lizard Boy is a fully fleshed out narrative of an unlikely hero overcoming the status quo, one that’s thoughtful, compelling, and amusing.
Seattle Repertory Theatre
March 27 - May 2
Contains mature content