REVIEW: Point Break Live! (New Rock Theater)

Gnarly to the max!


pointbreak3

New Rock Theater presents
Point Break Live!
Adapted by Jaime Keeling and Jamie Hook
directed by
Eve Hars
at New Rock Theatre, 3931 N. Elston
(map)
through June 26  | tickets: $25-$30  |  more info

reviewed by Paige Listerud

pointbreak7I had one question going into New Rock Theater’s farcical, free-for-all production, Point Break Live!—would it be funnier than the original movie starring Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze?

The answer: indubitably! Directed by Eve Hars, the show is as rad as all its advertising portends. Unintentional humor in Kathryn Bigelow’s surfer movie results from the usual, heavy-handed, Hollywood pandering to its 18-35 male demographic.  Plus, while Bigelow’s direction may be slick and the script slightly wry, the film still makes the typical action movie mistake of taking itself too seriously. But Point Break’s shortcomings, for live adaptation creator Jaime Keeling, are all gold to be mined for Point Break Live! Add a rockin’ cast and crew, plus the chance for an audience member to play Reeves’ role as Johnny Utah in this teenage wet dream of a show, and you’ve got a comic formula that accounts for sold-out success in Seattle, Minneapolis, New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

Receiving a survival kit and auditioning a few bold audience members to take on “the spirit of Keanu” warms up the crowd before the evening’s performance. Acting is not a prerequisite for the starring role, since the one playing Johnny Utah will read directly from cue cards–the method that “really catches the essential rawness of Keanu Reeves’ acting style.” The night I viewed the show, Max from the Mercantile Exchange put special gusto into lines like, “Are we gonna jump or jerk off?” indicating either familiarity with the original movie or a particular fascination with jerking off.

pointbreak6 pointbreak5

In any case, an impeccable comic cast backs up the star player and they clearly know what they are about. Matthew Peck’s grooved out and devil-may-care portrayal of Bodhi, the ringleader of the surfers/bank robbers (played by Patrick Swayze in the movie), belies his Shakespearean training at the British American Drama Academy in London. It’s an interpretation far too cool for Shakespeare, dude. His gang Roach (Nathanael Card), Grommet (Derek Elstro), and Nathanial (Cody Evans) provide most of the manic energy of the production, which is absolutely rife with hetero-friendly homoeroticism.

What a pleasure to see two old Chicago theater pros like Errol McLendon, who plays Pappas, and Greg Callozzo, taking on FBI chief Harp–a role that received its own  comic twist in the original from John C. McGinley . McGinley may be more familiar to audiences now as Dr. Perry pointbreak1Cox on the TV series “Scrubs.” Callozzo takes the role further than McGinley by portraying Harp as the kind of cross-dressing FBI chief that would make J. Edgar Hoover nervous with excitement. A bulldog in a feathered boa, Callozzo is especially funny when he cracks himself up in his rabidly masculinist exchanges with McLendon.

Make no mistake, Point Break Live! is played for all its over-the-top laughs. However, given our culture’s obsession with surfer dudes as the no-holds-barred boys of endless summer—an obsession consciously created and fueled by Hollywood—Point Break Live! ends up plumbing depths to the American male psyche in ways that Freud never could or would. He wouldn’t either because he’d have too much education or taste, or because his own historical and social reality would never allow him to be this extreme. The intellectual way I dissect it is boring, but the way Hars’ cast enacts it is gnarly to the max.

With a death wish that just won’t die, Point Break Live! boyishly, enthusiastically, and egregiously exaggerates all the action movie clichés and man-crush stupidity of the original movie. You don’t need a college diploma to love it. A high school diploma is, well, just generally a good idea for everyone.

Rating: ★★★

point_break_live

pointbreak8 pointbreak4

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcchicago.com/video.

REVIEW: Charley’s Sonata (On the Spot and La Costa)

Cliché-ridden family drama never finds the beat.

 IMG_4531

 
On the Spot Theatre Company and La Costa Theatre present
 
Charley’s Sonata
 
Written and Directed by Mike Brayndick
Original music by Stephen Gawrit
at
La Costa Theatre, 3931 N. Elston (map)
through May 23rd  |
  tickets: $10-$20  |  more info

reviewed by Oliver Sava

The writer-director is a dangerous animal. A writer’s primary task is to provide the foundation of the play, establishing style, creating plot and characters, and putting words in the actors’ mouths. Everything starts with the script. The director takes these elements and gives them life, coaching actors and working with a design team with the ultimate goal of enriching the source material. Manipulating these factors garners IMG_4600 an emotional reaction from the audience, and the director builds the connection that will determine the play’s success. It takes a massive amount of work and skill to do both well, but the main reason these roles are kept separate is because they create a system of checks and balances. The writer protects the integrity of the script, the director protects the integrity of the stage. When two become one, it can get ugly, and Charley’s Sonata ain’t pretty. The script lacks focus, struggling to balance multiple storylines about stereotypical characters, and the directorial choices are simply illogical, from unnecessarily long scene changes to the general overacting of the ensemble.

Charley (Stephen Gawrit) is the developmentally challenged son of Jonathan (David Schaplowsky) and Carol (Jennifer Young) who disappears on a family vacation in London. The events of the day Charley vanished are intertwined with various plots occurring four years later, when Jonathan and his daughter Miriam (Emma Brayndick) return to London for the reading of a relative’s will. Jonathan and Carol’s struggling marriage, Miriam’s romantic troubles, cousins Edwin (Daniel Ochoa) and Janice’s (Sandria-Jane Dajani) issues with Edwin’s mother Patricia (Janet Magnuson), and side stories involving who gets the inheritance and Patricia’s super-weird relationship with Charley are all covered, and the result is a jumbled mess that feels only half finished.

Charley’s Sonata has as much emotion as the title character’s tinny Casio. Relationships don’t feel organic, especially Miriam’s out-of-nowhere romance with a British boy and his subsequent infatuation with her; the stakes aren’t fully realized, one of the key factors that separates acting from line-reading. The cliché-ridden dialogue becomes a chore to get through – I’ve only been to London once, but I don’t think I ever heard anyone say “gov” – making the conflicts feel derivative and the production just plain boring. The show’s momentum is further diminished by the numerous lengthy scene changes, most of which are completely extraneous. At one point it takes almost an entire minute for one potted plant to be placed, which serves absolutely no purpose other than suggesting Edwin and Janice are redecorating, which is still pointless. It’s wasteful and inconsiderate to the audience, who pays to see characters interacting, not set pieces getting moved around.

 

IMG_4750 IMG_4841

 

Granted, the character interactions also leave something to be desired. The actors struggle with the dialect, jump on each other’s lines, and occasionally even forget the name of the character they’re talking to. Schaplowsky and Dajani provide the most enjoyable performances, the former showing a genuine love for his family and fear for their future, and the latter giving some great comic relief with a spot-on dialect. Considering the amount of time spent focusing on it, Charley shows few signs of a developmental disorder other than the occasional breakdown of a contraction (“don’t” becomes “do not”, “won’t” becomes “will not”), and while Gawrit does a fine job performing Charley’s monologues, they are so eloquent that it becomes difficult to believe the character’s circumstances. Why doesn’t Charley just pick up a phone and call his parents? The whole plot hinges on Charley not being able to take care of himself, but he somehow finds a way to leave his parents a recording of his sonata while lost in a foreign country. It just doesn’t make any sense. Did he have a disc burner in his back pack? Why didn’t he send them an e-mail? These inconsistencies are what hurt the play the most, and while the cast is committed to their work, it’s hard to build a solid product on a faulty foundation.

 
 
Rating: ★½
 
 

IMG_4639