Story: Summertime – and the commercial living on the Atlantic coast in Massachusetts depends on tourists heading to the beach to soak up the sun and swim away their cares for hours on end in the ocean. So naturally, a life-threatening great white shark is the last thing Amity Island Mayor Larry Vaughn wants near his village during its most economically vital season each year.
The darned shark doesn’t care, though, and soon has gobbled up a resident or two, much to the consternation of Martin Brody, the village’s new sheriff. The landlubber chief is hellbent on protecting the increasingly alarmed citizens, but the mayor considers Brody more an annoying nuisance than the business-encouraging law enforcement officer he should be.
After more incidents, though, even the mayor understands that the only way to get people back in the water involves killing the piscine predator. Brody enlists the aid of a visiting oceanographer named Hooper and the eccentric fisherman Quint, who agrees to eliminate the shark for a handsome fee. Now all they have to do is kill it …
Highlights: Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre, alter ego of St. Louis Shakespeare, continues to lampoon popular culture with this frenzied one-act homage to Steven Spielberg’s grisly cinematic classic.
Other Info: Donna Northcott, founder of both St. Louis Shakespeare and its impish younger relation, takes the reins once again as director of this frequently humorous mashup of the overly familiar 1975 movie masterpiece. As usual, the frenetic cast takes full advantage of numerous curtain-covered entrances and exits to keep the pace as hectic and haphazard as a swim in shark-infested waters.
As is customary, performances by Northcott’s busy cast are intentionally way over the top, although Dylan Comer manages to actually be too ridiculous as the money-lusting mayor. Tamping down that portrayal to fit in with the rest of the cast’s arch portrayals would benefit the production across the board.
Rob McLemore pretty much steals the show with an impressive impersonation of Robert Shaw as Quint, all steely-eyed and arrogant in his nautical superiority. Ryan Glosemeyer captures the concern as well as the panic of Brody when he’s aboard Quint’s fishing vessel (“We’re gonna need a bigger boat”), and James Enstall does his best Richard Dreyfuss as wisecracking marine expert Hooper.
There’s one particularly amusing scene when McLemore and Enstall compare injuries, citing references to movies in which Shaw and Dreyfuss appeared instead of the nautical accidents brought up in the movie.
Shannon Nara brings out the sexually frustrated side of Brody’s wife, Ellen – more notable in Peter Benchley’s 1974 novel than in the screenplay – in an inspired comic turn. Others contributing to the frantic goings-on include Jake Blonstein, CeCe Day, Jack Janssen, Maya Kelch, Deanna Massie and Bethany Miscannon.
Kayla Lindsay self-evidently had a grand time designing the costumes, especially the mayor’s nautical-themed sport coat; Anthony Elliott adds the humorous sound design; and Natalie “Life of Pi”-acentini paints a pretty blue backdrop on the walls as well as lighting everything. Props designer Jaiymz Hawkins provides the ridiculously funny props, including the insides of a shark victim.
Last Saturday’s performance sold out, so get your tickets early if you’re a connoisseur of the Monkey ensemble’s renowned antics. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.
Company: Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre
Venue: Regional Arts Commission, 6128 Delmar Blvd.
Dates: July 26 and 27
Tickets: $15; contact brownpapertickets.com
Rating: A 3.5 on a scale of 1-to-5
Photos courtesy of Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre