From the opening of Chasing Keanu Reeves: An Encore, Diana Nguyen feels like a close friend. By the end, she’s bonded with everyone over the universal themes of fancying Keanu and disappointing your mum, shared how hot (and hot) she is in her peach velvet jumpsuit, and convinced us that LinkedIn is the best dating app.
Nguyen begins with dancing, joy and infectious cheeriness. She is frustrated that the comedy festival circuit still doesn’t represent the diversity of Australia, and that she’s only cast as Asian hospitality workers on TV, but nothing can’t distract from discussing the impact of the Melbourne lockdowns.
This is an encore show – canceled in 2020, brief return in 2021 – but it’s not the one she originally created; being alone for months revealed that crushing on the spunkiness and generosity of a movie star isn’t all there is to making a show.
Not that anyone in the audience doesn’t respect a healthy obsession with Keanu; there are Keanu references for those who have Keanu-fested. And Nguyen moved on to watching porn, Dr Pimple Popper and The Crown. As her mum, who escaped Vietnam on a boat and came to Australia, named Diana and her sisters after British princesses, at least one of those was necessary viewing.
Her open, warm and generous performance ensures that the friendship strengthens. Once you’ve told someone about your favourite vibrator and worst date, you are bonded. And beginning to understand the impact of trauma on a family creates the kind of empathy and understanding that will eventually let our festivals and TV shows reflect the reality of living in Australia.
Chasing Keanu Reeves: An Encore would benefit from some narrative tightening and a focus on one rather than multiple personal stories, but this mixed focus also reflects the experience of lockdown. Nguyen knows how important performing is to her, and this makes it easy to remember that seeing live shows and bonding over stories with potential friends or LinkedIn contacts is something that we don’t want to lose again.
This show was reviewed at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2022.