The Shark Is Broken: Jaws Hits Broadway

Broadway's latest offers a deep dive into actors' personal struggles.

by Nouman Rasool
The Shark Is Broken: Jaws Hits Broadway

Jaws, the quintessential shark film, has a new twist in town. Delve deeper and it's not about the great white; rather, it’s about the tumultuous relationship of its three leading men and the familial traumas that connect them.

"The Shark Is Broken," now gracing the stage of Broadway's Golden Theater, presents a comedic yet poignant behind-the-scenes look at the makings of Jaws. Set aboard the Orca, the iconic lobster vessel from the film, we witness actors Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, and Robert Shaw, brilliantly portrayed by Colin Donnell, Alex Brightman, and Ian Shaw respectively, as they grapple with the repeated filming delays attributed to faulty mechanical sharks.

The interactions, however, aren't just about the challenges of filming. They’re a deep dive into the actors' personal histories, traumas, and relationships. Brightman's portrayal of Dreyfuss is particularly notable, encapsulating his high-strung mannerisms with frenetic energy, pacing and prancing around the boat, providing bursts of physical comedy.

His performance contrasts sharply with Donnell's Roy Scheider, who stands as the stoic anchor amidst the stormy personalities of Dreyfuss and Shaw.

Ian Shaw's Poignant Familial Portrayal

However, Ian Shaw's embodiment of his real-life father, Robert, is nothing short of transformative.

Co-written by Shaw and Joseph Nixon, the play adds an intimate layer as it brings forth the private struggles of Robert Shaw – his battle with alcoholism and his traumatic past, especially the pain of an alcoholic father who took his life when Shaw was just 12.

Witnessing Ian confront his family's shadows on stage is both riveting and heartrending, particularly during his delivery of the U.S.S. Indianapolis speech. Directed by Guy Masterson, "The Shark Is Broken" balances depth with levity.

The playful banter about film sequels and the future of cinema, while cliche at times, offers light-hearted respite. The detailed recreation of the Orca deserves a special mention. With Duncan Henderson’s design, the boat feels simultaneously expansive and confining, supported by projections and lighting from Nina Dunn and Jon Clark.

Interestingly, the menacing shark itself remains unseen throughout. Yet, its implied presence is felt – mirroring the underlying traumas of the lead characters, lurking just beneath the surface. While for the characters, the boat symbolizes confinement and strife, for audiences, it's a thrilling odyssey into the psyches of three iconic actors.

"The Shark Is Broken" may not showcase the terrifying creature from the deep blue, but it compellingly plunges into the deeper waters of human emotion and relationships. A captivating experience, it earns a solid B+.