Point Break Live
It is with great restraint that I don't throw up a surfer-sign as I begin my review of the LA production of Point Break Live! I can't help it. Surfer-lingo is infectious. And apparently, really, really gay.
Conceived as a part of "jackass" theatre in the quad at St. John's College, this little gem of Shakespeare.... er... screenwriters James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow, has been running since 2003 all over the country, most notably in New York City and LA. And "Point Break Live!" is exactly what you think it is: A stage version of the action thriller "Point Break" originally starring dead-eyed Keanu Reeves, and earnest cancer-fighter Patrick Swayze. The show is like saying "we're having pizza!" You know you're not getting a filet, but it's just as delicious.
Using the film's script, the show tells the story of green FBI agent Johnny Utah (I'm not making that up) who is partnered with foul-mouthed Pappas (played originally by Gary Busey) to infiltrate a group of surfers who orchestrate summer bank robberies dressed in the masks of various Presidents in order to fund their surfing habit.
Yes. That's the plot.
Utah soon meets the leader of the surfers, Bodhi (yep) who is all Zen and stuff. He talks about surfing like he has witnessed the resurrection of Jesus himself and has somehow received a higher level of consciousness because of it. Really, he's just a surfer that has smoked one too many bowls, but I digress. Oh, and there's a spunky lesbian who used to date Bodhi but who now has the hots for Utah. And she's not a lesbian. But she might as well have been. Because the cast infuses a subtext I missed entirely as a young twenty-something in Connecticut: "Point Break" is the gayest movie EVER!
"Point Break Live!" takes the aforementioned ludicrousness and presents it to the audience using a mostly bare stage and a variety of props that make the experience interactive for the audience. Firstly, the role of Johnny Utah is not played by an actor. Which is the joke. People are selected from the audience to participate in a casting session where they are asked to perform a line in Keanu-speak (read: monotone). The applause of the audience decides the actor of the night and show begins. Also the small band of actors frequently get touchy with the audience, spraying them with water, fake blood, "extract of male," and robbing them at gunpoint. Luckily, audience members can purchase a poncho and fake money for $1 to keep themselves protected.
The cast is more than capable of making the evening fun. Amber Hubert plays Kathryn Bigelow herself, hosting the casting session and occasionally breaking into the action to direct. George Spielvogel as Pappas and Jennifer Jean as Utah's gal, Tyler, both relish their roles playing them with a wink-wink/nudge-nudge to comic effect. Bodhi's surfer buddies (John W. Miller, Mitch Eakins, and Thomas Blake) are the comic high point as every line or pose becomes a litany of gay double-entendres.
Tobias Jelinek as Swayze's Bodhi is pitch-perfect as the mellow surfer and Utah's psychological seducer. He captures Swayze's inflection and earnestness in a way that made me subsequently hate every Swayze movie I have ever seen. (Incidentally, "Roadhouse" got a similar live/interactive treatment in NYC a few years back.)
But the standout is Christi Waldon. With a role simply named "PA" (Production Assistant), she is initially required to simply hold the cue cards that the audience member cast as Johnny Utah reads. But she takes this role and makes it a gem. Whether commenting verbally or with a raise of her brow, her asides are hilarious. When Utah has the opportunity to shoot Bodhi after failed chase, he realizes he can't bring himself to do it and instead, fires his gun in the air and yells the "F" word really, really loud. To get the "actor" to play the emotion of the scene correctly, the PA directs him by saying , "You can't shoot him. Because you love him." In addition, Ms. Waldon is called upon to be the audience member's stunt double which is apropos as she also choreographed the fight scenes. In whatever asked of her, Waldon is a delight and was the high point of the show.
As for our Johnny Utah, each performance has its own, so the experience will be different depending on who the audience selects. Happily, my audience was blessed with an obvious actor who found the humor in the role and played it with deadpan exuberance. It didn't hurt that he was easy on the eyes either.
Directed by actors Thomas Blake, George Spielvogel, and creator Eve Hars, the show is brisk and consistently entertaining. If you're wondering how they are going to pull off two plane jumps and aerial falls, they have it all figured out: It just takes a little wind machine and some solid bolts in the ceiling. As for the gay subtext, well, "Point Break" might as well have been original "Brokeback Mountain."
Running about 90 minutes, "Point Break Live!" is a hoot. And if you don't mind getting a little wet and sticky, you won't regret the meager $20 it costs to get in. It doesn't hurt to have knowledge of the original film, but the friend I went with had never seen it and is now eager to rent it just to see how ridiculous it is.
Playing Live! at The Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles. Runs indefinitely Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm.
Tickets are $20 and available at www.theatermania.com.