Kathryn Bigelow's 1991 opus, Point Break, is an oft-quoted classic, a takedown of male machismo masquerading as a celebration of it. It's also one of the greatest blood-spattered romances of the era, the tale of rookie FBI agent Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves), who learns the Zen side of extreme sports while tracking Bodhi (Patrick Swayze), a bank robber with a heart of gold. Love and violence ensues.
For 14 years, Point Break Live has celebrated the amazing and ridiculous nature of the seminal film. It debuted in Seattle, enjoyed a nine-year run at a tiny L.A. theater, and turned into a touring riot that amps up the homoeroticism and Gary Busey craziness in an audience-participation riot featuring squirting blood, simulated skydiving and meatball sandwiches.
Most interestingly, each performance features someone from the audience playing Utah.
Before the show, audience members take the stage for a group audition with "Bigelow," who chooses her leading man, assigns him a cue-card-toting assistant, and squeezes him into a wetsuit. It can be stressful: I know. I've gone through the process, losing the role of a lifetime in an adaptation of my favorite movie to a much handsomer man. But I've learned from my mistakes. With the show hitting Crystal Ballroom on Friday night, here are this obsessive insider's tips on winning the role, then becoming the best Utah you can be.
Remember, Utah's not stupid.
Special Agent John Utah is often mistaken for an idiot because of his delivery and general early-period Keanu-ness during a time when the specter of Ted Theodore Logan was still fresh in everybody's mind. Despite choosing to attend Ohio State University on a football scholarship, Utah is no dummy. He's a graduate of law school and Quantico, for God's sake. But he's also trying to infiltrate surf culture as a yuppie insect, and as such he plays into the surfer-dude stereotype. That means dumb. Stony. If anything, Utah's just a bad actor. But by the time he realizes surfing is also a Zen exercise, he becomes enlightened and less dopey. Which is to say, Utah is a very layered role full of intricacies few truly understand. To properly execute the role, you'll need to understand when it's time to jerk off and when it's time to jump.
Don't come in with the lines memorized.
You've very likely been watching Point Break on repeat for more than 25 years—if you have any taste, at least—and know every line. Forget them. Part of the fun of Point Break Live is watching the Chosen Utah struggle through the lines next to actors who have spent years yelling about taking shrapnel at Khe Sanh while you were crapping in your hands and wiping it on your face. You might be the lead, but they're the stars. What's more, all of Utah's lines are written on cue cards, which an actor holds extremely close to the Chosen Utah's face to slow down the line reading. That person needs a job, and if you've got all the lines memorized, you're putting that employment in danger, squid brain. So play dumb, even if you're enlightened. Just like Utah!
Master your weirdly punctuated delivery.
In Point Break, Reeves reads his lines with a weird cadence and disregard for punctuation that would give Christopher Walken pause. The notorious "I. Am. An. F. B. I. A. Gent" is just the tip of the iceberg. A true Utah knows when to follow a comma and when to blow right past it, and appreciates a randomly placed period in the middle of a sentence. Use the cue cards as a guide, but the punctuation marks as suggestions.
Master your grunts and gestures.
Approximately 68 percent of Special Agent John Utah's emotion is communicated through grunts, screams and wild gestures. Whether reacting to hitting terminal velocity on his first free fall, nursing his busted-ass knee in a foot chase, or firing his gun into the air passionately while screaming, a true Utah must master the art of the grunt. Meanwhile, he has a tendency to be extremely stoic one moment before flailing like Nicolas Cage getting hit with a police-grade Taser the next. Master that duality, and you will join the pantheon of the great Utahs.
Hone your 1,000-yard stare.
The other 32 percent of Utah's communication is executed through the employment of intense staring. Bodhi going on about the philosophical side of adrenaline addiction? Laser-focused stare. Caught telling a lie about his dead parents to Tyler? Sheepish stare over the right shoulder. Bodhi emerging, glistening, from the ocean like some sort of gill-equipped, scruffy Adonis? Longing stare. Angry that his love interest reveals that he is, indeed, the leader of the bank-robbing Ex-Presidents? Dagger stare! No two stares are alike. Stack your arsenal accordingly.
Wear comfortable underwear.
Once you're chosen as Utah, you're going to be crammed into a too-tight wetsuit. And you're going to dangle from a harness to simulate skydiving. Twice. This isn't just a performance, it's an endurance test. And plan for boners. This is, above all, a romance.
Point Break Live is at Crystal Ballroom, 1332 W Burnside St., on Friday, May 5. 7:30 pm. $20 advance, $25 day of show. 21+.