Lunchbox Theatre’s Shark Bite lost its bite

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At the heart of Lunchbox Theatre’s production of Meredith Taylor-Parry’s Shark Bite is a beautiful story of two people from two different generations who are world apart, but are together for two weeks and are struggling to reach each other. It is a tale that unfolds in layers and deals with pain and isolation as well as the concept of feeling alone when someone else is in the room. The script and staging of this play is thoughtful but ultimately the narrative loses all poignancy, as we are not convinced to take the story seriously.

Shark Bite tells of 14 year old Ava (Maezy Dennie) who is staying with her grandfather George (Robert Klein) as her parents are away on vacation. Ava lives in the city and has to stay with George for 2 weeks in his secluded cabin in the woods. The two very quickly discover that they don’t relate to each other as well as they did when Ava was young, and the things that used to bond them together are not holding as strong. Ava is a ‘city kid’ who depends on WIFI and cares very deeply about animals while George traps wildlife as a hobby. Their connection to each other is frayed. But during a walk in the woods, a turn of events puts them both in grave danger. This incident breaks down their walls and lets them slowly understand the other through vulnerability and courage.

Klein carries this narrative as George, a recent widower and avid adventurer. His portrayal of George allows you to connect with the pain and loss that George is grappling with. But this play is a two hander and if one of the artists on stage drops the ball, the narrative cannot be successful. Dennie is not convincing as Ava because she recites her lines without emotion. The climax of the story depends on her terror and anxiety but her delivery is wooden and aloof. We are unconvinced of the danger and therefore the tension is drained out of the play.

The lighting design by Ajay Badoni combined with Bianca Guimarăes de Manuel’s conceptual set design captures the brightness of snow and trees, without filling the stage with fake snow and trees. It’s a fascinating set design, with what looks like upside-down hat racks made to look like trees that are on wheels, decorating the stage. Kathryn Smith’s composition and sound design builds the tension and danger in the narrative that the characters are attempting to build as well.

Lunchbox Theatre’s Shark Bite is a complex, multilayered story that deals with intergenerational communication and has a strong staging, but ultimately it loses it bite because the audience cannot buy into the tension in the show.

Shark Bite runs until May 29th. More information can be found online.

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