at gunpoint by guys wearing Richard Nixon masks, and . . . um . . . spattered with blood.
Fake blood, but yeah, blood.
Welcome to “Point Break LIVE!” an astonishingly weird, loose-limbed spoof of the iconic, 1991 cult-hit B-movie starring Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze and Gary Busey. “Point Break Live!” – or PBL to its fans – was conceived written by Jaime Keeling in 2003.
Today, twelve years after its initial debut, this giddy over-the-top “extreme theater” extravaganza of coarseness and crudity is still going strong. On the first Friday of every month, the cast of the long running L.A. production brings the show up to San Francisco, unleashing PBL at the South-of-Market DNA Lounge.
The show’s story is more-or-less that same as the movie.
A young FBI agent, and former college quarterback named Johnny Utah infiltrates a ring of beach-dwelling daredevils who rob banks by day and surf waves by night. Known as “the ex-presidents,” they commit their crimes wearing rubber masks of Nixon, Reagan, Ford and Carter. The ring is led by the guru-like Bohdi (Swayze, in the film, Sam Snowden on stage). Bohdi lives by the principle, “If you want to experience the ultimate, you have to pay the ultimate price.”
The movie was full of car chases, surfing scenes, skydiving heroics, and number of epic explosions and barrages of gunfire, all recreated in Point Break LIVE! in deliciously low-tech ways that frequently spill over into the audience.
During the surfing scenes, for example, the actors douse the crowd with super soakers and sun block. During the wildly funny gunfights, fake blood cascades into the air in all directions, including up, so watch out if you’re in the balcony. During the famous meatball sandwich scene, in which Johnny Utah’s partner Pappas (James Cotner) delivers the crowd-pleasing line, “I’m so hungry I could eat the ass-end of rhino!” actual meatball sandwiches are hurled into the seats. Experienced PBL visitors come prepared with ponchos and rain slickers, and believe me, you’ll need one.
It’s not exactly classy, but it’s fun, it’s high energy, it’s inventive and it’s endlessly clever. Though the cast-members are all trained actors, the Keanu Reeves character is a member of the audience, chosen by the audience. Once selected, the Keanu-of-the-night delivers his lines from cue cards wielded by his perky handler and part-time stunt double, played with sassy charm by Christi Waldon.
The actors are quite good. Some of them rappel onto the stage from the balcony or dangle from cables during the skydiving scenes. In some ways, the cast is like an expert clown troupe in a three-ring circus, juggling a whole lot of balls at once while delivering lines with audacious glee and loose-but-effective comic timing.
While at times it all seems more like a Saturday Night Live sketch on steroids, uppers, and a bottle of Jack Daniels than it resembles a more traditional piece of theatrical craftsmanship, that barely matters. The unrestrained joy and pure ballsy outrageousness of the thing, ultimately turns Point Break Live! into something unique, and truly memorable. To paraphrase Bodhi, “If you want to experience the ultimate night of theater, you have to pay the ultimate price!” In this case, that price includes getting spattered with blood.
Trust me. It’s worth it.
“Point Break Live!” runs the first Friday of the month at DNA Lounge. in San Francisco at 7:30pm and 11:00pm. Dnalounge.com
I’m David Templeton, Second Row Center, for KRCB.