SF Weekly (US), April 13, 2009
Point Break Live! at Cellspace
by Andy Wright
Point Break Live!
April 10, 2009
Better than: Plays that don't require protective clothing.
Inflating the sheer absurdity of the 1991 Keanu Reeves/Patrick Swayze bank - robbing - surfer - action - homoerotic - extreme - sports - thriller - American classic Point Break seems like an impossible task. You might as well try to make tomatoes taste more like tomatoes. How does one make a parody of something that is already such a perfect parody of itself? Why would you even try? Maybe it's because you knew the result would be Point Break Live!, brainchild of Jamie Keeling.
Upon entering the theater, every attendee of PBL! is supplied with a plastic baggy that contains a cheap plastic poncho and some fake dollar bills. The poncho is provided to protect audience members from what promises to be a very wet show. The rain garments all have little pointed plastic hoods, which had the strange effect of making attendees look like tiny, outdoors oriented members of the KKK. The sound of beers being cracked open and excited murmuring was accompanied by the white noise of plastic crinkling. The stage was decorated with nothing but a poorly constructed island sprouting an inflatable palm tree. More promising sets have been produced at Summer Camps. But you don't go to PBL! for the frills.
Keanu Reeves character , FBI agent Johnny Utah, is chosen anew for every production from the audience. Audience members volunteer for this honor and are put through a series of rigorous challenges. The feckless victim then has their lines fed to them via a cue card for the remainder of the evening. On this particular night, it was obvious that nobody had a chance in hell of beating the adorable Austrailian who not only kind of looked like Reeves but had clearly spent some quality time in the mirror practicing his Utah. It is entirely possible that, after fulfilling his destiny of delivering a pitch perfect parody of Reeves performance, he then went outside and turned into a wisp of smoke that floated away like a magical butterfly that only lives for one day or whatever. Or some other metaphor about things that don't last very long. Anyway.
Every actor in PBL! throws themselves into the joke with feverish and unabashed glee. The actor playing Gary Busey's loose cannon FBI agent growls his lines, crawls around on the floor with his ass in the air, and liberally dumps cocaine by way of baking flour all over his face. Utah's love interest Tyler (aka Lori Petty) sneers her way through every scene, perfectly lampooning her character's unearned patina of cool and disdain. Patrick Swayze's Bodhi dead-pan delivers every line like a self-proclaimed deity. Audience members are abused with super soakers, harassed by bank robbers, become landing pads for surfer dudes who launch themselves into the crowd, and are splattered in fake blood and semen. At least, we hope it's fake semen. Sort of.
And here's the important thing that they don't tell you in the ads: PBL! is an unapologetic dude-fest filled with seas of rippling abs. Bodhi's crew of surf rebels is comprised of a bevy of taut young men who show their asses, rub sunscreen suggestively on their nipples (is there any other way to rub sunscreen on your nipple?) and spend the majority of their time on stage topless. The homo-erotic element of the movie is ratcheted up to a satisfyingly grotesque degree. Humping and pantomimed blowjobs are the order of the day.
If you like Keanu Reeves, rippling abs, drinking, laughing and free ponchos, you will LOVE Point Break Live!
By the way: The scene in which Utah and Bodhi leap from a moving plane is recreated with pulleys and fans.
Personal bias: I love abs. And ponchos.