Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cincinnati

Lizard Boy
Know Theatre
Review by Rick Pender

Also see Rick's recent review of The Lion

Jaron Crawford, Erin McCamley, and Ian Forsgren
Photo by Dan R. Winters
Cincinnati audiences can always count on Know Theatre, the presenter of the city's annual Fringe Festival, for off-the-beaten-path shows, typically focused on contemporary issues and presented with reckless abandon. That's certainly true of this production of Justin Huertas's Lizard Boy, a comic-book inspired, coming-of-age and coming-out indie-rock musical about scale-covered Trevor, a young man in Seattle.

As a child, Trevor was brushed by a dragon released by the 1980 eruption of Mount Saint Helens. Today he finds himself encased in off-putting scales and a spine lined with spikes. We are asked to imagine this, since actor Jaron Crawford simply wears a hoodie that suggests his physical condition. His appearance has, of course, limited social interaction. He's gay but has had little opportunity to find a partner or even a satisfying date. In fact, he seldom leaves his apartment, except for the annual "Monster Fest," where he can blend in with people costumed as dragons.

Weary of his isolation, Trevor resorts to Grindr, the gay dating app, which leads him to an awkward encounter with Cary (Ian Timothy Forsgren) and a series of false starts toward a possible relationship. At the same time, Trevor is haunted by dreams of a rock goddess, Siren (Erin McCamley), who has a magical, spellbinding voice and a literally bloodthirsty rage. Turns out she and Trevor have a frightening childhood connection, and Lizard Boy's story is shaped by her willful manipulation of Trevor and the prospect of an imminent attack by more dragons.

The show is framed within the ethos of comic books and superheroes. The action is occasionally punctuated with projected cartoon bubbles conveying sounds ("Wham," "Bang") and other observations ("Cute," "Cringe"). Such elements, as well as an amusingly stylized slow-motion fight, further underscore that we have moved beyond reality to an imaginative illustrated world.

The show's action is driven by a collection of Huertas's songs. The playwright is also a composer and lyricist. His indie-rock score includes titles such as "Myth to Live By," "Things I Want," and "The Woah Song." Crawford, Forsgren, and McCamley are a trio of actor/musicians, playing guitar and keyboards to accompany one another's vocals; on several numbers they pull together for pleasing harmonies. A fourth performer, Wesley Carman, plays an upright string bass and contributes a few comic moments to the story.

Andrew Hungerford's scenic design features a floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall illustration of the Seattle skyline, with the prominent, iconic Space Needle and a smoking Mount Saint Helens. Hungerford is also the lighting designer. When Siren is the focal point, dressed in red leather pants, top, and occasionally a red-feathered jacket, the entire set is washed in a scarlet glow.

Lizard Boy has been staged by director, actor, musician and filmmaker Lindsey Augusta Mercer, co-founder of Queen City Queer Theatre Collective and an occasional Know performer over the years. Ultimately, Lizard Boy is the story of Trevor's self-discovery and eventual acceptance that his differences are not to be ashamed of but rather evidence of who he truly is: someone worthy of receiving love and even admiration.

It's a complex narrative, told through characters that lack some dimension. Forsgren's Cary has a comic presence (he spends much of the show wearing a baby onesie), but the role tends to be a foil for Crawford's Jaron, the only multi-faceted character. McCamley's Siren swings back and forth between being a super-powered villainess and a wounded club singer, another role that is rooted more in comic book tradition than in relatable reality.

That being said, Lizard Boy is clearly aimed at Know's core audience, always ready to cheer for rowdy, inventive storytelling and meaningful contemporary messages.

Lizard Boy, runs through December 11, 2022, produced by Know Theatre of Cincinnati, at 1120 Jackson Street in Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati OH. The production is also livestreamed on select dates. For tickets and information, please visit or call 513-300-5669.