Photo by Sumi Wu

IMAGO'S PRODUCTION of The Black Lizard has three things going for it: a slinky leading lady who looks great in a tight dress, clever production design, and a sly script that mines the clichés of gumshoe mysteries to sexy, morbid effect.

Quite a list, right? But The Black Lizard's got a few marks in the negative column as well, including a leisurely runtime that leeches much of the show's momentum and extremely uneven performances from the supporting cast.

As the titular Black Lizard, a thief whose penchant for snatching pretty things extends from shiny diamonds to attractive young people, Anne Sorce is every inch the femme fatale (though when she's undercover, wooing a victim under the guise of friendship, a persona that's meant to seem duplicitous ends up looking an awful lot like overacting). Her heavy-breathing counterpart is ace detective Kogorô Akechi (Matt DiBiasio), prone to Philip Marlowe-esque bouts of mumble-y existential introspection. Genre convention dictates that sexy criminal and sexy detective have a sexy, sexy rapport, and the push-pull one-upmanship of their interactions are some of the most fun moments the show has to offer. But for all that The Black Lizard often feels like a lighthearted farce, it takes some surprising turns into dark, grotesque territory, transitions that its deft use of multimedia helps to mitigate.

It's worth noting that Imago's production of The Black Lizard marks the English language premiere of the script, by noted Japanese novelist and playwright Yukio Mishima. It's not a perfect show, but you're not gonna see anything else like it anytime soon.