There are difficulties in reviewing a show in its fourth go-round with the same company. It may be impossible to recapture the sense of discovery that came with the first production; and even the most generous comparisons may characterize the latest rendition as Johnny-come-lately.
It helps that this is only my second visit to the anarchic spoofery that is Point Break LIVE! I thought highly of the first production and, in theory, this is that same script. Yet this version seemed looser, less polished, even a little less professional in some ways; but it is also altogether edgier, as if infected by a devil-may-care virus.
The premise remains the same. Oscar-winning filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow is mounting a stage version of her cult classic movie and elects to choose an audience member to play the Keanu Reeve role of injured football star turned FBI undercover agent Johnny Utah. The implicit criticism of any random choice being able to adequately substitute for the famously vacant gaze of Mr. Reeve is a funny idea. But it is just the jumping-off point for a satire that targets celebrity and cheesy, almost-B movies at a pace that never allows any jokes falling flat to slow down the proceedings enough for the audience to notice. Patrick Swayze and Gary Busey also starred in the original movie; and the actors are targets as much, if not more, than the characters or the story.
The Swayze role of Bodhi, the mystical bank-robber/surfer, is here essayed by Todd Zeigler with appropriate Zen empty-headedness, although I think he misses the opportunity to nail the arrogant, macho swagger that was a hallmark of that dearly departed movie star. Kimby Taylor-Peterson was commanding as Katheryn Bigelow, and her improv skills were well-employed as she kept the premise afloat while backstage preparations with the Keanu substitute were underway. Jamie Shannon was a game and energetic PA (Production Assistant) whose primary function is to manhandle the fake Keanu through the action and supply his lines on laminated cue cards. Chesley Sommer played Roach, a member of the bank robbers/surfer gang with perhaps a bit too much fevered energy; but he had some funny moments. Brian McKenery did yeoman work as a utility player, including operating the live video feed. As Tyler, the shared girlfriend/plot device for both Bodhi and Johnny Utah, Christie Troxell did her best with a thankless part, providing at least some Southern-fried sass to her underwritten character. Ben Unwin was a riot as Grommet and another gang member who was realized simultaneously as a puppet. This was a departure from the script necessitated by a last-minute drop-out from the cast, but it proved a welcome piece of fresh business that helped liven up the evening. And Kenn Parks was a suitably ridiculous Gary Busey stand-in as Angelo Pappas, the FBI agent running the operation. The evening I was in attendance, Jeremy Gernert won the casting call to be Keanu, and, besides being generally a good sport, he gave several line readings that were an unquestionable improvement on the original.
The first production divided the audience and identified an “action zone” closer to the stage – an area in which the audience was at great risk of being saturated with water and fake blood and were subject to a certain amount of forced participation in several scenes. Now staged in the cozy cabaret space, ALL seats are in the “action zone.” There is no escape from the assault of liquids and actors practically jumping in your lap, so don’t be shy about donning the cheesy plastic protective gear. And watch out for the laminated cue cards that Ms. Shannon tosses in every conceivable direction with abandon and force! In all seriousness, there is a real hazard to that element that makes protective eye wear or a hard hat a worthy accessory. Several audience members (including this reviewer) were struck directly or after a card ricocheted off the support beams and pipes above our heads, although there were no cuts or bruises suffered.
Drinking is allowed – nay encouraged – which makes sense since this may be the most foolhardy yet fun theatrical enterprise on a Louisville stage this summer. But this is a party show if ever there was one and, as such, has become a near-iconic staple of The Alley’s programming. Check it out if you dare, but be prepared to defend yourself.
Point Break LIVE!
June 20-22, 28-29
July 12-13, 19-20
All shows at 7:30 p.m.
Student “pay what you can night”: Thursday July 22
Tim & Dair Mathistad
Katie & Chris Haulter
Kathy Todd Chaney
Angie Reed Garner