Imagine the best movie spoof film you’ve ever seen. Now imagine what it would be like if a group of people performed it live and you’ll have an idea of what Point Break Live! offers audiences brave enough to see it. The fact that it makes fun of a movie that’s already almost a parody of itself – Point Break starring Keanu Reeves as ex-football star cum FBI agent Johnny Utah who becomes a surfer to chase other surfers who also happen to be bank robbers – is doubly delicious. It’s an interactive show that gets the audience involved in fun ways and the laughs are almost non-stop, making Point Break Live! one of the best ways to spend a Friday or Saturday night. Just don’t wear something you care about.
So how does one take a big budget movie that’s set on the beach, featuring a car chase and sky diving and bring it to the stage in a believable manner? You use practical effects and rely on a whole lot of imagination on the audience’s part. The production value is very low, but that’s half of the charm. The stage is basically bare, with only a few functional set pieces to get the point across for particular scenes, like a plastic palm tree for the beach and a toy bench for the front seat of a car. Otherwise, everything else is just acted out and done so remarkably well.
As a pleasant twist, all of the parts of the film are already cast except for Johnny Utah. As such, audience members who want to play the part can get on stage and audition for the crowd. The director of the film Point Break, Kathryn Bigelow (played by Amber Hubert on stage), joins the prospective Johnny’s and puts them through three rounds of acting-related tasks, like line-delivery, flexibility and speaking while moving. Afterwards, the audience members clap for the Johnny they like the best.
As another pleasant – and probably logistically necessary – twist, Point Break Live! isn’t simply a staged reenactment of the film; the show is presented as a filming of the movie. That means Bigelow will occasionally walk around, giving direction via a bullhorn. There’s also a production assistant (Christi Waldon) on hand to hold cue cards for Johnny Utah since he can’t be expected to know the lines. Waldon also doubles as the stunt double for the fight scenes. The result is utter hilarity.
It’s obvious that the cast is full of comedic actors experienced in improv, because their timing is tight and their choices are clever, like how they refer to the Johnny Utah for the evening based on his looks – on my night they called him “chubby Hugh Jackman” and “Emilio Estevez mixed with Corky.” They also know how to work the audience members, involving them in the show while flawlessly staying in character. Everyone in the ensemble cast does an excellent job – even the actors playing smaller roles manage to carve out a memorable character that’ll have you genuinely laughing – but a few standout performances come from Bodhi (Tobias Jelinek) and Pappas (George Spielvogel). The actors are almost polar opposites in their portrayals. Jelinek is reserved and enigmatic, bordering on mystic, which is perfect for Bodhi, while Spielvogel is manic and cartoony, which won’t necessarily remind of Gary Busey’s version, but is fun to watch just the same.
You don’t need to be familiar with the film Point Break to appreciate the live version, but it certainly helps in the way that knowing The Rocky Horror Picture Show helps when you go watch a live screening. There are choice lines in Point Break that everyone inexplicably knows and loves, like “I am an FBI agent!” and “Utah, make it two!” It’s not necessary to memorize the film, but watching it at least once is recommended, especially if you get picked to play Johnny Utah.
The actor that does play Utah is one of the two factors of the show that could heavily affect the enjoyment of the production. While I’m sure that the cast is talented enough to present a good show regardless of who plays Utah, it definitely helps when the person has a modicum of acting ability and knows the movie. The Utah on my night struck the perfect balance between fish-out-of-water and hammy amateur actor.
The other factor that could absolutely ruin your night is whether or not you buy a poncho sold at the show and/or if you’re wearing something you care about. To help deliver an authentic beach experience, the actors sometimes squirt water into the audience, which is fine. When characters get shot, water with food coloring is squirted into the audience, which is tolerable. To help illustrate some dialogue about masturbating, some kind of sticky substance is squirted into the audience, which sucks. A lot. Especially when you’re not wearing a poncho – like me – because you had no idea corn syrup would be thrown on you. Full Disclosure: I was given a free poncho, but I didn’t use it because I thought the show was only going to use water.
Worse yet, at one point the bank robbers will assault the audience with super soakers and it seems as though they will target anyone not wearing ponchos, like my photographer. Thomas Blake, who played Roach, soaked her with impunity, screaming, “You’re date (meaning me) is so cheap! It was only a dollar (meaning the poncho)! You couldn’t afford a dollar?!” All the while, my photographer huddled with me to protect her suede leather purse. We failed. With that said, buy the poncho. Or don’t buy the poncho and bring someone you hate.
Whatever you do, don’t miss Point Break Live! It’s unique, it’s cheap and there’s alcohol. It’s easily one of the better times you’re going to have in Los Angeles.
Point Break Live!
Every Friday & Saturday @ 8 p.m.
6510 Santa Monica Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Tickets: $20 @ TheaterMania.com