REVIEW: Point Break Live! (New Rock Theater)

Gnarly to the max!


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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.

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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: ★★★

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