Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Director Shaun Michael McNamara's adaptation closely follows the plot of Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb's screenplay (based on Benchley's novel) about a man-eating shark who is wreaking havoc off the shore of Amity island. The island's chief of police Brody, along with marine biologist Hooper and shark hunter Quint, set out on Quint's boat to track and kill the monster before it can kill again.
McNamara includes a lot of the actual dialogue from the film as well as reenactments of many of the film's most memorable scenes. Just about every classic movie moment is dramatized in humorous fashion and with only the use of puppets, including the killing of the young boy on a raft and the death of one of the main trio. McNamara also wisely eliminates a few of the unnecessary characters from the film in order to quicken the pace. However, McNamara does add in some modern references to current people in the news, including a nod to Brett Kavanaugh's recent Supreme Court hearing, and adds repeated spoofs of some of the more infamous moments in the film, which add to the length. The scene in the movie where the mother of the boy who is killed on the raft slaps Brody once is turned into a virtual slap-a-thon where even another character gets in on the action. Also, in this version, the dog on the beach has an unusual fascination with Brody whom he humps relentlessly. Not all of these bits work, though they do receive a few chuckles. McNamara even adds in a clever opening credits sequence, just like you'd have before a movie, as well as several references to other classic suspense films like Silence of the Lambs.
The six-member cast almost all play multiple parts and all are proficient in creating unique characters and also masterful in their puppet-handling duties. Devon Nickel's Brody is appropriately smart but somewhat unsure of himself, while Zachary Funk's Hooper is a bit of a wise ass. McNamara expertly plays Quint and even has Robert Shaw's film accent down perfectly. Joseph Paul Cavazos gets some funny lines as the shark, and Erika Jacobs and Tanner J. Stuff do well in many supporting parts.
As in past All Puppet Players' shows, the set is minimal, though Quint's boat the Orca is one of the biggest set pieces I've seen in an All Puppet Players show and is used quite effectively for the entire second act. Clare Burnett's lighting does well to distinguish between the daytime and nighttime scenes as well as an underwater sequence which looks great. McNamara's sound effects and underscore, which uses parts of the John Williams film score, adds some funny bits throughout.
Even if some of the jokes don't get big laughs and there are a few scenes that could be shortened, Jaws: Live, Abridged and Completely Underfunded still has some good laughs and is a fun and funny adult adaptation of this classic, blockbuster film.
All Puppet Players' Jaws: Live, Abridged and Completely Underfunded, through October 27, 2018, at Playhouse on the Park, 1850 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix AZ. Tickets can be purchased at www.allpuppetplayers.com or by calling 602-254-2151
Director/ Adaptation / Sound Design: Shaun Michael McNamara