Thursday, May 23, 2024

Broadway Review: The Shark Has Big Teeth, Dear in Comedy Satire of “Jaws” That Devours Spielberg’s First Big Hit


“The Shark is Broken” is funny but is the play that satirizes the making of “Jaws”? The answer is yes and no.

Ian Shaw and Joseph Nixon’s often hilarious comedy, “The Shark is Broken,” is the saga of Bruce the Shark not working while the main trio of “Jaws” actors sits around for 9 weeks in the water off of Martha’s Vineyard. We get three determined and spot on players, too — Shaw, son of the actor Robert, playing his father; Colin Donnell as a preening Roy Scheider, and Alex Brightman as a self-absorbed Richard Dreyfuss who’s just between “Duddy Kravitz” and “Close Encounters.”

Shaw has been working on this a long time. His father was a distinguished and anguished actor who died from a massive heart attack at age 51 in 1978 when Ian just nine years old. Robert Shaw was already a big deal from “The Sting” (1973) and “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three” when “Jaws” was released in 1975. Robert Shaw left a legacy for his sons who were never old enough to really know their father.

Robert Shaw was a talented writer and theater actor, as well. You can tell Ian, now two years older than his father lived, has inherited these skills. In “The Shark is Broken” we’re watching him not only send up “Jaws” — a movie he undoubtedly could act out himself — but work out his life. The laughs — and there are many — are alternated with Ian’s attempts to recapture the highlight period of his dad’s career.

“The Shark is Broken” gets a lot of it laughs from being able to milk jokes that are set ups from the perspective of 1974, when they shot the film, til today. “Do you think anyone will be talking about this movie in 50 years?” “I suspect movies in the future will just be sequels or remakes or remakes of sequels” declares the the ’74 Shaw. There are also jokes about Nixon and the future of the country, etc. They get a big response.

Alex Brightman makes for a devastating Dreyfuss, who is easily and lovingly lampooned. Donnell – who strips down to a Speedo — captures Scheider’s serious no- nonsense side. Off stage we hear the voice of the very young Steven Spielberg trying to organize all these ego’s and the shark and crew.

Despite a late summer opening, the stars turned out last night for the opening: Christian Slater, Rachel Zegler (herself a Spielberg graduate), Marina Squerciati (from “Chicago PD”), Andrew Rannells, Nikki M. James, and a lot of actors enjoying theater and hoping for a quick end to the strikes!

By all means, go see “The Shark is Broken” for the laughs, which are many, and the really vivid background video screen of the rippling ocean and billowing sails of boats. Sharks are back, you know!

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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