You ought to likely arrive into The Shark Is Damaged figuring out your lore. The participate in is established during the infamously troubled generation of Jaws, the 1975 Steven Spielberg shark film that served birth the fashionable blockbuster but appeared potentially lifeless in the h2o as it was getting created. As you are going to at least infer from the title, the big mechanical prop fish kept breaking down all through output, a dilemma compounded by the actuality that Spielberg had chosen to shoot in open up h2o off Martha’s Winery. From there, you get the play’s Beckett-esque premise: The qualified prospects, Roy Scheider (Colin Donnell), Richard Dreyfuss (Alex Brightman), and Robert Shaw (Ian Shaw, his son, who co-wrote the script with Joseph Nixon), are all caught on a boat, waiting around for unlimited several hours between can take, at the mercy of the new god of present day filmmaking—special outcomes. Shall we go? Effectively, not until finally somebody fixes Bruce the Shark’s pneumatic innards.

While the play is located on that boat, the trouble rapidly becomes that it is definitely about every little thing that takes place immediately after Jaws is launched, which is in which the lore arrives in. Shaw and Nixon’s script leans intensely on your assumed recognition of what would soon transpire when Spielberg’s event movies devour the New Hollywood experimentation of the 1970s and lead us correct to our existing cinematic universe. So there are awkward, viewers-pandering jokes wherein Shaw states, “UFOs! Aliens! Jesus! Regardless of what subsequent? Dinosaurs?” and you feel about Jurassic Park, or when Scheider insists he’ll by no means do a sequel to Jaws, and you remember that he was roped, unhappily, into 1.

That additional-textural remarkable irony gnaws at The Shark Is Damaged, which has much less integrity as a perform than as a totally researched costume-up presentation for a background-of-movie class. Ian Shaw, no terrific shock, strongly resembles his father, and Brightman and Donnell have the two been designed up into ringers for Dreyfuss and Scheider. (Praise to Duncan Henderson’s costumes and to the wigs by Campbell Youthful Associates.) Everyone is meticulously re-developing all those acquainted voices — Brightman in specific zips correct by way of Dreyfuss’s manic, cokie rants with gusto — and acting out his character’s perfectly-recognized on-established habits. But although the actors are raring to go, the staging is cramped, with director Man Masterson managing out of methods to shuffle them all-around a boat that, certainly, we know, is fairly claustrophobic. (That is certainly the intent, but it would make the participate in seem to be smaller than it should.) Additional pressingly, the producing, intent on remaining evenly comedian and recognizing, retains offering what is common and unchallenging. Donnell, in a nod to Scheider’s really like of tanning, strips down in an awkwardly staged instant to sunbathe, drawing titters from the audience, a gesture exactly where lover support and beefcake collide.

The coronary heart of the factor lies in Ian Shaw’s playing his father. Robert Shaw was an completed author (close friends with Harold Pinter, as the enjoy will remind you) as perfectly as a grand stage actor, one who would not be delighted by owning a shark motion picture lead off his obituary. Ian doesn’t pull again from the intensity of his outbursts at Dreyfuss for goofing all over too considerably, all part of their pretty nicely-documented feud. There is a good deal for Ian to explore in his father’s conflicted thoughts about working in Hollywood, as effectively as his alcoholism. But as with so significantly of The Shark Is Damaged, the exploration doesn’t go primarily deep. It is poignant to see son-as-father grumble about the price tag of possessing to assist his nine young children, 1 of whom is delivering the strains, but the script pulls away from shelling out too very long in distress. In fact, it follows up Shaw’s line about his little ones by acquiring Scheider joke about how he’s “gonna require a even larger boat.”

Fathers stop up becoming The Shark Is Broken’s main way into its total central trio. At some point, sitting in that tiny boat onstage, anyone gets all-around to chatting about their dads: Scheider’s was violent Dreyfuss’s desired him to be a law firm Shaw’s was a “real alcoholic, not just a barroom brawler or a dilettante drinker.” The scene in the latter 50 percent of the a single act where the 3 of them begin to open up about their fathers hits at a thing emotionally in which the rest of the engage in tends to be much too stuffed with trivia. (It also consciously echoes the late-night time bonding session from the film, the place Shaw’s and Dreyfuss’s characters review scars.) It’s the place the actors’ performances amazing off from nervous, meticulous imitation into a more true dynamic.

That dynamic is as minimum as previous as Greek mythology, and right here the father problems also mirror a war involving media: movies swallowing theater, then becoming swallowed by even more substantial films. (As all these men consider to get past their possess dads, they are building anything significant and various that will be the new creative order their small children dwell less than.) The Shark Is Damaged chases the Oedipal cycle back to the phase, but it doesn’t be successful in usurping the tendencies of the videos. You could listen to a great deal about the dispiriting path that Hollywood would soon head down immediately after the release of Jaws, but The Shark Is Damaged is continue to in (justifiable) awe of the movie alone. Like Back again to the Foreseeable future: The Musical, which just opened a couple blocks away, The Shark Is Damaged depends on your personal passion for the house to make perception. Onstage, the actors, sitting down in their tiny cabin cruiser, are surrounded by a giant semi-cylindrical display screen on which we see footage of the ocean and sky close to them. Deliberately or not, it resembles the big, empty “volume” phases exactly where monitor actors now execute towards emptiness that will be loaded in by extensive amounts of CGI — you come to feel the subsequent weightless and craven era of franchise motion pictures right after the Spielberg blockbusters creeping into watch. That significant, half-open up display screen also resembles a big maw, one that threatens to gape even broader and swallow the theater full.

The Shark Is Broken is at the John Golden Theatre.

By Indana