Aux Dog Theatre’s production of “Tick, Tick … BOOM!” may not end in an explosion, but it does end with a satisfying analysis of teen identity.

“Tick, Tick…BOOM!” is a musical by Jonathan Larson, who is most famous for writing “Rent,” an empowering musical about artists with AIDS set in New York. “Tick, Tick…BOOM!” is also about struggling artists living in New York, and only one character has AIDS. But there are only three characters.

The small cast is a boon for the show; each actor has much to do and is able to stretch his or her performance muscles accordingly. There is something succinct and satisfying about a three-person cast.

Jason Adam Cox plays Jon, a clear autobiographical stand-in for the playwright. Cox is a pleasant enough protagonist, though he is difficult to hear in many of the songs. Brittany Reinholz plays Susan, the token woman and romantic counterpart for Jon. Gilbert Sanchez plays Michael, Jon’s best friend who swapped his artistic life for a more lucrative, corporate one. Reinholz and Sanchez occasionally get to play smaller parts, making for the funniest and some of the most enjoyable portions of the show. There are clever props adding to the humor, as well as an attractive set, provided by Karin Pitman, the set and prop designer.

There is no intermission, so be prepared to sit through the whole thing, though the show wraps up neatly in about an hour and a half.

There is a live, four-piece band which adds to the quality of the show. No matter what you perform, a live band makes everything better. It gives the musical that certain bump — without it, the show’s just not the same.

There are, however, no mics for the three performers. A bold choice and one to be applauded, but occasionally the words of the songs become muddled and indistinct.

There’s something vaguely offensive to me when show tunes claim to be rock, choosing to dress and walk and talk like rock ‘n’ roll while still being show tunes. Sort of like “I Believe My Own Eyes” being added to The Who’s rock opera “Tommy” when it hit Broadway, to make it more “musical-y.”

However, “Tick, Tick…BOOM!” ultimately got me to care and become invested in a format and subject matter that didn’t initially appeal to or interest me. It is not a particularly complex show, but it’s clearly a personal one for Larson, which alone gives it a value of curiosity.

As angsty as the play’s subject matter and characters are, it has interesting things to say about adolescence and identity. This may be the best way to approach this sort of thing anyway.

by Jonathan Larson
Directed by Scott Schuster
Aux Dog Theatre
3011 Monte Vista Blvd N.E. 
Fridays & Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Sundays at 2 p.m.
Runs until March 3
$18 general admission
$16 with student ID 
$10 groups of 10 or more