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You, too, can say ‘Vaya con Dios, Brah’

Times Staff Writer

THE 1991 film “Point Break,” starring Keanu Reeves as an FBI agent who goes undercover to catch a gang of surfing bank robbers led by Patrick Swayze, doesn’t merely invite parody. It begs for it.

So it’s little wonder that “Point Break Live!,” an absurdist stage adaptation of the popular action film, has found its way to the downtown L.A. lounge Charlie O’s at the Alexandria Hotel this month.

“There’s probably no other movie that’s quite as ridiculous to do on stage. It’s got everything: surfing, sky diving, bank robbery, male bonding and things getting blown up,” director Eve Hars says.

Hatched as a drunken bet between former film programmer Jaime Keeling and her pal, film and theater director Jamie Hook, their mission was nothing short of reinventing theater and bringing it to the masses.

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“Theater has gone down a dead path for too many years. We need to restore it to its rightful place,” Keeling says. “People are tired of August Wilson clones mumbling about the meaning of life. People want action. The problem with most theater is that we’ve let Hollywood steal our audience. We need to put action back on the stage, where it belongs.”

Since its Seattle debut in 2003, “Point Break Live!” has also been performed in Minneapolis and New York City before making its L.A. premiere.

Although the movie betrayed a deadly seriousness, this theatrical version is decidedly campy. Playing up the homoerotic nature of the relationship between Johnny Utah (Reeves) and his nemesis-turned-mentor, Bodhi (Swayze), the play remains mostly faithful to the original plot aside from a few concessions in staging.

Actress Lisa Renee playing the film’s director, Kathryn Bigelow, occasionally interjects by calling “Cut!” and then bringing in a stunt double for the action scenes. She also kicks off the evening by warming up the crowd and explaining why audience members are given “survival kits.” (Attendees are encouraged to leave their finery at home; the audience gets sprayed with water, and the survival kit ponchos don’t cover everything.)

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But perhaps the most intriguing thing in this adaptation is that the play stars a new Johnny Utah every night. “When they first staged the play in 2003, they auditioned actors for the Keanu Reeves role, but everyone was too good,” Hars says. “So they decided to pull someone from the audience each night and have them read the dialogue off cue cards. It totally worked. The way he or she ended up saying the lines was usually pretty similar to how Keanu delivered them in the movie.”

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elina.shatkin@latimes.com

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‘Point Break Live!’

Where: Charlie O’s, Alexandria Hotel, 501 S. Spring St., L.A.

When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through October

Price: $20; $6 valet parking under hotel

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Info: www.theatermania.com


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