BOTTOM LINE: Young, dumb, and full of water guns; an evening of boozy fun based on one of the best-worst movies of all time.
Point Break -- the greatest movie about bank-robbing surfers that 1991 had to offer -- has found new life in New York as a gleefully messy stage parody. If you are a fan of the film, or even if you just think more plays should make use of beer and water guns, then put on your rain slicker and keep reading.
The original Point Break was directed by Katheryn Bigelow, and it is by far her finest film that isn’t named The Hurt Locker or Zero Dark Thirty. For those of you not familiar with this masterpiece (shame on you!) the film follows rookie FBI agent Johnny Utah (“memorably acted” by Keanu Reeves) in his efforts to infiltrate and stop a gang of bank-robbing surfers. The late, perfect Patrick Swayze played Bodhi, the charismatic leader of the robbers who takes Utah under his wing. What follows is one of cinema's most endearing portrayals of heterosexual romance punctuated by scenes of surfing, bank heists, explosions, surfing, gun battles, surfing, sky diving, surfing and surfing. Gary Busey eats a meatball sandwich.
The parody version of Point Break (now playing in various locations throughout the city) originally premiered at Seattle’s Northwest Film Forum in 2003. The show became a huge hit, and within a few years, creator and director Jaime Keeling took her baby to Los Angeles for another successful run. It was not long before productions of Point Break Live! were popping up all over the country (not always legally, as it turns out: story here. After overcoming some legal battles with the show’s L.A. producers, Ms. Keeling has officially taken Point Break Live! to New York City where it is now appearing in hip venues like Webster Hall and The Bell House.
One of Point Break Live’s selling points is the role of Johnny Utah/Keanu Reeves. At each performance the role is cast from the audience, who vote for their favorite based on a single line reading (“Hey, I’m Johnny Utah.”). The lucky person deemed the Reevesiest will then be thrust into a wet suit and spend the next two hours trying to keep his/her head above water while all his lines are fed to him. It is a risky move on the part of the show but one that pays off. The cast and crew take exceptional care of Audience Reeves -- never once did it seem like the performer was in any danger of physical harm -- while throwing enough chaos and cue cards at the poor soul to invoke a vulnerable and hilarious performance. It’s hard not to root for the Keanu du jour. I have seen two productions of Point Break Live! and both times the crowd-sourced leads were endearing and engaging in their awkwardness. Each performer committed fully to their part and received well-earned standing ovations. Point Break Live! may be a silly spoof, but there is something genuinely heartwarming in the way the show and the audience reward the intrepid newcomer for his or her chutzpah.
The regular cast members, meanwhile, all are hilarious in their own right. David Carl plays the Gary Busey character in the Gary Buseyest of ways (i.e. batsh*t insane) and is an audience favorite. Micheal Christoforo makes a great Bodhi, especially when he milks the character’s quasi-spirituality (observing the boozy audience’s rowdy outbursts, Christoforo states “The ocean is speaking to me!”). Chris Nestor, Tristan Griffin and Brian Sturgill are loveably goofy as Bodhi’s crack team of bros (Sturgill in particular has a lot of fun playing bleached blonde doofus Nathanial). Kate Armstrong Ross does not quite reach the screechy potential as the Lori Petty love interests, but that may have to do with this reviewer’s own personal biases (early nineties Lori Petty was a goddess! A lovely, shrill-voiced goddess!). Ross does strike gold in a brief bit as a prepubescent surfer boy and is especially funny later when she attempts to wield a fake gun. Jo-Anne Lee has the unenviable task of feeding “Keanu” his lines, but she also gets to shine in some kick-ass fight choreography (staged by Rod Kinter). Mark Sam Rosenthal hits all the right notes in his scenes as Ben Harp. Finally, Patrick Hambrick provides the music and adds groovy ambiance as a guitar-playing hippie with a liberally buttoned shirt.
Speaking of shirts, many of the male cast members are in impressive shape and mostly topless, if that is relevant to your interests.
I saw Point Break Live! both at Webster Hall and at Brooklyn’s Littlefield. Of the two venues, the show seemed much better suited to Littlefield where the acoustics lend the show clarity. Webster Hall, on the other hand seemed to eat up all the sound. The actors had to scream all their dialogue, and many of the show’s funnier lines were lost. If you can, try to see the show at Littlefield, which also features an impressive and fairly priced bar.
You will want to hit up that bar, because the show gets funnier the more you drink. Point Break Live! is meant to be a party. If you are in search of a quiet, introspective evening at the theater, turn away, my friend. However, if you want to sauced while dodging the spray of water guns (each audience member is provided a poncho for a reason), this is your effing show.
Finally, a word must be said about the meatball sandwiches. Oh God, those meatball sandwiches! Available in the lobby during intermission, the sandwiches are a minor plot point in Point Break, but they provide the perfect opportunity for the audience to refuel. The sandwiches are glorious: cheesy, saucy ingots of delight; perfect for a night of beery debauched fun. You eat one of these sandwiches at intermission and you will go into Act II a much happier person. Buy one and share it with a friend, or buy two and keep them to yourself. Those meatball sandwiches are the source. They can change your life. Swear to God.
Point Break Live! is not a thinking man’s show. It’s not a thinking man’s “anything,” really. However, if you just want to leave your brain at home, drink with your bros, and maybe become Keanu for a day, this is your wave. Go catch it.
(Point Break Live plays at various locations now through December 6, 2013. The next performance is Friday, October 18, 2013 at 8PM at 8 PM at Littlefield, 622 Degraw Street, Brooklyn. Tickets are $26 and are available at ticketfly.com. For more information and a full schedule visit pointbreakliveny.com.)