Winnipeg Free Press (Ca), January 20, 1995


by Morley Walker

If you're looking for one last kick at the Keanu (bad pun), you won't find it here.

In fact, I have come not to bury Mr. Reeves but to praise him. Now that the dust has settled from the opening night performances of MTC's Hamlet, it is safe to say that MTC and Keanu have succeeded beyond their wildest expectations.

Under tremendous pressure, they have mounted a more than respectable production of an exceedingly difficult play.

As many theatre critics have noted, including that snide fellow from London's Guardian whose deathless prose appeared on the free press editorial page Wednesday, Reeves is not making anyone forget Geilgud or Olivier.

But he is climbing on stage, night after night, wading through that sea of lines, and doing it it in competent fashion.

If that sounds like damning with faint praise, it isn't intended to do so. Given the pressure Reeves has been under, it's amazing he hasn't croaked.

In the final analysis, Keanu and MTC have brought a little glamor and sizzle to a Winnipeg winter. They have made us feel a little better about ourselves. They have made us feel that exciting things can happen here and people from far away will take notice.

For that alone they deserve a standing ovation.

Even Shakespeare would agree that the real drama of MTC's Hamlet is not the play itself. It is how Reeves fares, how the rest of the cast reacts to a celebrity in their midst, and how Winnipeg deals with being in a world spotlight.

In every case, people are passing with flying colors.

MTC has a sell-out production. They've got people from all over North America and beyond coming here to see a play.

And as an added bonus they've probably got more than a few people reading Shakepeare.

At opening night, I sat between two women, one a psychiatrist from Vancouver, the other a bookkeeper from L.A. Both had come for the big event. Last weekend, I was tracked down at home by a BBC Radio in London. They wanted to do an interview with anyone, someone from Winnipeg who could give them a sense of the excitement here.

With this sort of interest from elsewhere, it's hard to display anything but generosity toward Reeves himself.

The word from the Hamlet cast and crew members is virtually unanimous. He is an ernest fellow who came here to do the best work he can do.

He is, as they say in the theatre biz, a trouper, a company man, a team player. He wants nothing but to ply his craft and get better at it.

Those who have seen him up close say he appears well grounded in reality and is in the acting biz for the long haul. They say he is unlikely to be chewed up by celebrity.

These traits have been on display for years to other show business professionals. This is probably why he has worked continually in movies since he was eighteen, many times for serious directors.

It's probably why MTC artisitc director Steven Schipper and his Hamlet director Lewis Baumander knew they could trust the role to him.

Well, they were right. Reeves has done it. MTC has done it.

And we all benefit.

Congratulations to them all.

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