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theater: Mocking the Matrix 

Comedy Alley takes on a film so full of iconic images and self-important, pseudo-religious motifs, it begs for parody.

Comedy Alley has picked an opportune time for this show. The second in the movie series, "The Matrix Reloaded," opens May 15 and we're about to be engulfed in a wave of Matrix publicity. And the film is so full of iconic images and self-important, pseudo-religious motifs, it begs for parody.

Christine Walters and David Gau created and co-directed the show. They've come up with a number of clever gimmicks to send up almost every scene in the movie. In the movie, when the agents are interrogating Neo, they remove his mouth as a form of torture. In the spoof, an agent instead fills Neo's mouth with a gob of Jif peanut butter.

Though this isn't really an improvisational show, it includes the sorts of things you find in improv: slapstick physical humor, glancing references to pop culture, and corny lyrics sung to the music of cheesy songs (for instance, Duran Duran's "Rio" is transformed into "Neo").

The show, which closely follows the plot of the film, is almost too faithful because you know where it's all headed. It also flirts with tediousness at times, but the creators seem conscious of the danger. The latter parts of the show skip through the plot at an accelerated pace.

As computer hacker Neo, Fred Hardin does a nice job of riffing on Keanu Reeve's supposed lack of intelligence and acting talent. There's one odd thing about Hardin, though. Is it just me, or does he look more like the Bill character from "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" than Ted, the character played by Keanu Reeves? In a twisted way, it adds to the show.

Carlton Forbes, a sophomore at Maggie Walker Governor's School, plays Morpheus. Unlike Laurence Fishburne, Forbes is rather small for the leader of a group of kick-butt commandos. The jabs at his lack of stature and his evident small-man compensation are hilarious.

The cast blasts away at all of the film characters as well. Wearing black vinyl, Trinity (Abby Davis-Hess) is full of hormone-driven hyper-lust for Neo. And Michael Bruckmueller as Cypher perpetually tells everyone that he hates them.

The high point of the show is when Neo and Trinity attempt to rescue Morpheus from the agents. This gravity-defying, adrenaline-pumping, Kung Fu shoot-up is performed with such energy and accuracy that I wanted them to repeat it rather than pick up the plot again. Hardin even does a great slow-motion job of bending backward to miss the agent's bullets.

If you're a fan of the movie, "Musical Matrix" is certainly worth a look. In other words, take the red pill. S



"Musical Matrix" will run May 2, 9, 10 and 16 at 10 p.m. at Comedy Alley, 7115-A Staples Mill Road. Call 266-9377.

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