Entertainment

Yo, Johnny! See you in the next life!

Point Break LIVE! is the ultimate rush

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Tobias Jelenik as surfer-bank-robbing god Bodhi in Point Break LIVE!.
Jacob Coakley

Following the commercial hit Ghost, Patrick Swayze returned to make the second-most romantic film of his career. Once again he played a being of pure primal energy teaching an elfin, brown-haired naïf how to live, love and move his body. He worked with Keanu Reeves, and the couple’s magic chemistry was truly undeniable. The legend of Point Break was born. And thanks to the producers of Point Break LIVE!, the theatrical extravaganza that just pulled into town, that legend gets reborn every night.

For the truly ignorant, the plot goes like this: FBI agent goes undercover as a surfer dude to bust extreme athletes who rob banks. For the truly brave, the plot goes like this: Dash onstage when they ask for audience participation and audition to play the role of federal agent Johnny Utah, originally brought to life by Keanu. After a few audition exercises (jumping jacks, line readings, hair tossing) a new Johnny Utah is chosen by applause-o-meter every night. That’s right—an audience member plays the central role of the show. (He, or sometimes she, is fed his or her lines via cue cards.) It’s an inspired comedic choice, a meta-joke on Keanu’s acting ability.

Point Break Live!

The show is full of audience participation—not for nothing is every audience member handed a poncho when the show starts. I recommend you use it. Copious amounts of water, fake blood and sunscreen are sprayed, flung and squirted throughout the show. While the show is definitely not for the stodgy, the audience participation is not painful at all. There’s no opportunity to opt out, and frankly, the cast handles it in such a way that you quickly don’t want to.

The introduction of Bodhi and his surfer buddies is an orgy of sunscreen, frat-boy antics and cheerfully satiric homoeroticism. The cast members don’t get “in your face” in a confrontational way, but they do immediately push the interaction so far into your space to break down your distancing defenses. You are not forced to have fun, but somehow you find yourself laughing uproariously at purposefully bad props, stunt-double shot-matches and surfers who are beyond unself-consciously pressing themselves into your personal space.

Point Break film director Kathryn Bigelow (well, not really, and normally I’d tell you who all these actors were—but programs and Playbills really aren’t in the cards for this show) guides the audience through the performance, and a hyper-kinetic cheerleader/stunt double offers help and cue cards to the newly minted Keanu. The helper’s performance is all frenetic puppy—she completely adores her new Keanu and bounds with energy the entire night. She’s an incredibly generous actor, ceding the spotlight to Keanu and responding deftly to any of the twists and turns that the wild card can throw at her, but keeping the show on track and on point. Tobias Jelinek strikes all the right notes as surfer-guru Bodhi and is perhaps the only performer who never breaks the fourth wall. His self-important surfer god is a good counter to Angelo Pappas, a character played so broadly that the actor is probably channelling the present-day Gary Busey. That’s not a knock; it’s absolutely of a whole with the tone of the piece, and his death scene, and scene, and scene again will remain one of the bloodiest moments onstage (and in the crowd) until the elevator opens in The Shining, Live Onstage.

"I am an FBI agent!": Point Break LIVE!

The staging for the piece is near genius. Low-rent theatrical tricks done so flawlessly poorly that you can’t help but cheer them on. Both sky-diving jumps from the movie are included, and watching grown men hang from the ceiling, or balance on one knee, while pretending to fall through the air is an underappreciated joy. The action is all followed by a camera and placed on screens to help the audience better follow some of the pivotal chase scenes and subtle acting.

I’m not going to pretend that this is the greatest piece of art in the world. But it doesn’t pretend to be that, either. This is a raucous, hysterical night of theater that revels in the stupidity of the movie and the absurd cleverness of adapting it live onstage in front of you. Wear the poncho, laugh out loud and get ready for some of the most fun you can have seeing a show.

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