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Neo! A Matrix Musical, Bulldog 17 Productions, at Live Bait Theater. There’s a lesson here for fledgling theater companies searching for a late-night hit: you don’t need a lot of resources to put butts in seats. You don’t even need a good script or a competent director or a talented cast; all it takes is one readily identifiable pop culture phenomenon. That’s about all Neo! A Matrix Musical has going for it. Part homage to the Keanu Reeves sci-fi vehicle, part Zucker brothers spoof, Bulldog 17’s inaugural production lacks the depth to stand on its own and the humor to qualify as anything more than a hopeless attempt at parody.

Director Frederick Garcia and his cast don’t even get a passing grade for effort. Garcia’s script–a hodgepodge of lame computer and geek-oriented jokes and dialogue from the movie–isn’t remotely clever or funny. And all attempts to integrate music into this joyless mess result in abject failure; most of Garcia’s songs rely on racial stereotyping, and all are delivered off-key, offbeat, and with a bare minimum of musical accompaniment. Joel Maisonet’s fight choreography may be the show’s sole saving grace. His reproductions of key action sequences (like the “dodging bullets” scene) aren’t particularly tight, but they do provide the few moments in Neo! when the actors look like they aren’t praying for the Matrix to take control and erase all memory of their involvement with this terrifically awful production.

–Nick Green