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'The Shark Is Broken' by Ian Shaw & Joseph Nixon

Now onstage at Toronto's Royal Alexandra Theatre

Now onstage at Toronto's Royal Alexandra Theatre

Joe Szekeres

At times, a caustically and incisively written script combined with master class acting makes ‘The Shark is Broken’ another of my picks to see this fall.

Have Richard Dreyfuss and Steven Spielberg been called yet to see ‘The Shark is Broken’?

I hope they have.

Seeing this boffo opening night production made me wonder how the two of them have responded or may react to the play’s fictional plot.

It is 1974, Martha’s Vineyard. The first film version of ‘Jaws’ (1975) has been stalled due to complications involving the mechanical shark ‘Bruce’ (named after director Steven Spielberg’s lawyer). We are on board the set of the Orca, the trawler ship used in the first film to capture the great white that terrorizes the fictional town of Amity, an Eastern side seacoast vacation spot. The trawler ship in the film belongs to the character Quint who has been hired to kill the beast.

Stalled days are turning into weeks with script rewrites continuing so time and money are not frivolously wasted. However, horrible weather conditions in Martha Vineyard at the time of the shooting have left the film’s three actors Roy Scheider (Demetri Goritsas), Robert Shaw (Ian Shaw) and Richard Dreyfuss (Liam Murray Scott) short-tempered, exhausted, and annoyed at the situation in which they find themselves. Point of interest: Ian Shaw is the son of the late actor Robert who played Quint.

What follows is a fictionalized account of the dialogue that took place between the three actors on board the set of the Orca. Be aware the discussions become rather salty in language periodically, but that’s what makes the story quickly move along. And the situations are at times downright hilarious ranging from the various games they play out of boredom right down to discussing the meaning of the film, possible sequels (and they didn’t live up to the original) and who is the ‘star’ of the picture. This latter part of the discussion is one of the reasons why you should get to see it, especially if you are a ‘Jaws’ lover as I was back in my ‘teens.

To see the unique claustrophobically space-tight set on the Royal Alexandra stage took me back to my first time anticipatingly waiting in my seat for ‘Jaws’ to start. Duncan Henderson’s outstanding tightly claustrophobic trawler design, Jon Clark’s marvellous lighting design and Nina Dunn’s sensational video design were all seamlessly woven together to create that appealing illusion I was on the boat and in the water with the actors. There were a few moments where it felt as if the boat was listing in the water so that was fascinating both to experience and to see.

And to hear John Williams’s incredible frightening score once again. That ‘boom boom boom boom….’ that opened the ‘Jaws’ (where we see the shark’s point of view in the water) opens the production. I felt a big ol’ smile stretch across my face, and I could hear audience members whispering around me: “Yes!!!!!!!”
Ian Shaw and Joseph Nixon’s at times caustic script contains razor-sharp edges of humour that sometimes cut right to the heart of the moment and the characters themselves. It purposefully builds and gains momentum over time.

Combined with Guy Masterson’s steady hand in direction, ‘The Shark is Broken’ is another example of fine master acting classes that I’ve seen this fall on stages here in Toronto. Marvelous to behold to hear and watch three tremendous actors deliver the dialogue with finesse and precision.

Ian Shaw’s physical portrayal of his father from the original ‘Jaws’ remains uncanny. I closed my eyes periodically as Shaw spoke to listen carefully, and I felt my jaw drop in hearing the verisimilitude of the voice and its cadence throughout. Ian Shaw remains satisfying gruff and cantankerous throughout. As the hotshot, young Richard Dreyfuss who felt ‘Jaws’ would catapult him to fame, Liam Murray Scott believably maintains that self-assured, cocky ‘know it all’ just begging to have the crap kicked out of him because he does not know his place within the 70s echelon of Hollywood fame. Demetri Goritsas becomes a doppelganger peacekeeper for Roy Scheider especially when I saw the hairstyle and the clothing he wore which was so dead ringing close to that infamous trawler scene from ‘Jaws’.

Final Comments: Highly engaging performance work from Ian Shaw, Liam Murray Scott and Demetri Goritsas from a cinema classic that will be talked about years from now.

‘The Shark is Broken’ is another must-see this fall.

Running Time: approximately one hour and 30 minutes with no intermission.

‘The Shark is Broken’ runs to November 6 at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, 260 King Street West, Toronto. For tickets, visit or call 1-800-461-3333.

Director: Guy Masterson
Designer: Duncan Henderson
Lighting Designer: Jon Clark
Video Designer: Nina Dunn
Production Management: Tom Nickson
Performers: Demetri Goritsas, Liam Murray Scott, Ian Shaw.

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