Matrix Live! (A Parody) is hilarious, but pack a lunch: it's three hours long.
The Alley Theater once again amazes me with their creative talent for "making do". During Matrix Live! (A Parody), there is ONE piece of scenery on the stage for the entire play, and that is a large chair. It reminds me of t-shirts we had in our high school theater department:
"You know you've done community theater if:
- You've ever threatened someone with a gun held together with duct tape
- You've ever pushed a couch off stage in heels
- You've ever pushed a couch off stage in heels..and you're a man
- You've fixed a set mid-show...with duct tape"
Alley Theater has become a master of many of the "skills" listed on that t-shirt. For example, elevator doors were made from two people holding a surf board and a rectangular plank of wood side by side. Other costumes and props were things that were already backstage from other shows. Alley theater is not only great at recycling props and set pieces; they are great at recycling actors. A very strong ensemble cast played many parts in this production as is customary in the shows I've seen there.
Some of the cast members were also in Point Break Live! PBL! is the show that inspired this crew to produce this Matrix spoof. It seemed at times that the production was trying to be PBL! There were several elements that were almost exactly the same. There were a lot of references back to PBL! riffing on the shared cast members. Inside jokes are ok, but you're losing the audience members who have not seen PBL! The writing continues to be a little confusing because the Wachowski Brothers bust in and out of the scenes. The director in PBL! popped in occasionally to call "Cut' and replace an actor with a stunt double, but the directors in this spoof come in to fight with each other (and cast members), fill some of the roles, deliberate about what they're doing, and express surprise and panic that they signed an agreement for a trilogy when they thought it was just one; That's exactly how I felt as an audience member. I signed on for one play and got three. Thank the theatrical powers that be for several breaks, because this show is about three hours long.
Todd Ziegler's adaptation was witty, but I think the humor would have packed more of a power comedic punch if it were shorter, removing the lulls between power puns. While some of it was gut busting hilarious, a lot of it seemed to try too hard. Near the end, the actress playing Trinity freaks out and goes on a rant about false saviors, killing the light heartedness built up throughout the show. Her monologue poses a very interesting viewpoint, showing a deeper side to Ziegler, but it seems to kind of come out of nowhere. It might have made more sense coming from the production assistant who had been questioning the directors and script throughout the play.
There is a LOT of fighting between cast and directors. It increases to the point that I felt a little stressed out by it. Parody is supposed to be exaggerated, but it feels a little like this production was trying to parody too many things at once, including previous Wachowski films and one of their private lives, which also loses some audience members who don't get it.
Those things aside, this show is just so funny. There are some funny internet meme references, pop songs thrown in at appropriate times, and moments of sheer comic genius. Some of the humor is so clever, I wanted to yell "HA! with excessive volume. I laughed pretty regularly throughout the entire play despite the lulls. The dialog delivered a lot of wit, but the physical humor is what makes this play.That brings me to the fight scenes.Tony Smith did an amazing job! His fight scene choreography, coupled with the cast's ability to deliver it, is one of the coolest things I've seen at Alley Theater.
I wish I had more room to elaborate on the best moments from each cast member, but I will just say that they are all strong and each had shining moments of hilarity. I was really impressed that all of them had the strength to pull lead roles.
If you are a fan of the Matrix movies or have at least seen them, I think you'll find this to be a fun and unique evening that you'll be talking about for a while. Lucas fans beware: There was a lot of Lucas hatin' going on (George Lucas) despite the upcoming Star Wars: The Original Trilogy in Under 60 Minutes production at the theater. If you don't mind a long night, Matrix Live! (a parody) is worth the ticket price of $18 or $20. That's what you paid to see one of the movies with snacks, and you get a parody of all three with some behind the scenes thrown in. Remaining shows are December 8,9, 10. 15, 16, 17 at 7:30 p.m.
This is one of the funniest scenes: The Wachowski Brothers both want to play the same role and race through the lines in perfect unison.
Photos by Joe Mays.