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Keanu Reeves Saves the Universe

nytheatre.com review by Michael Criscuolo
April 29, 2005

Rob Reese’s comedy Keanu Reeves Saves the Universe, a broad spoof of sci-fi movies and all things Keanu, throws in everything including the kitchen sink. There are references aplenty to The Matrix (a character named Dorfeous), Star Wars (a character named Dark Hater), and Star Trek (a character named Schlock), and dozens more to other cultural signposts like 2001: A Space Odyssey, War Games, The Greatest American Hero, and the video game Donkey Kong. As you can see, KRSTU is all over the place, which is both a blessing and a curse. Its inherent looseness fosters the kind of loony attitude the play needs to succeed (which it does about half the time). But, that same looseness also gives it an ADD-type quality that makes KRSTU feel like an hour-long comedy sketch. The novelty of this is fun while it lasts, but unfortunately it doesn't last the entire show.

The plot—which features a crew of futuristic space hotties traveling back in time to kidnap Keanu Reeves so he can save the universe—isn't the point. KRSTU wants nothing more than to lovingly send up an entire film genre and its own namesake—which it does very well. When Keanu Reeves wonders aloud which of his films is about cold fusion, one wants to shout out to him, “Chain Reaction!” When one of the space hotties shouts “Iceberg!” as their vessel lurches out of control, one laughs at the Titanic quote. But, as the show progresses, one realizes that KRSTU does not aspire to anything more than such easy laughs. Once it becomes clear that the entire show is nothing more than an extended game of Spot-The-Reference, the joke starts to wear a little thin.

But, KRSTU does have several things going for it, including an enthusiastic cast that is game for anything. Standouts include Dave McKeel as Dorfeous, and Marcus Bonnee as an amusingly over-the-top Keanu Reeves. There is also terrific stage combat from fight choreographer Alan Estevez. His excellent re-creations of Matrix-type martial arts battles and a hilarious Star Wars light saber duel are both worth the price of admission alone. Plus, there’s a trio of strolling trumpet players that make humorous periodic appearances (to say more would spoil the fun of them).

Writer-director Reese has a fertile imagination and a good sense of humor, but he needs to tighten up the show’s pacing and fine tune his company’s comic timing. The actors often take lengthy pauses after a punchline, trying to milk laughs. But, the abundance of such pauses slows the show down, and lessens the impact of the jokes. Setting a breakneck pace, so that KRSTU is always one or two steps ahead of the audience, would be beneficial.