What do you get when you put a Bengal tiger, a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and a person named Piscine Molitor Patel — who prefers to go by Pi — on a boat? Well, chaos. Add hunger and 237 days at sea, and you also get murder, vengeance, survival, and a treatise on the meaning of God.
Yann Martel’s novel Life of Pi — about a boy from Pondicherry who travels with his family and their zoo animals on a boat to Canada that sinks and his consequent fight for survival — burst onto the scene in 2001. Despite several publishing houses rejecting the book, the novel sold over 14 million copies worldwide and won a Man Booker Prize. Ang Lee directed the film version in 2012, introducing actor Suraj Sharma and breathing life into the story with rich CGI, visuals, and music. This time, British Indian writer and actor Lolita Chakrabarti has adapted the novel for the stage.
It isn’t easy to fit a sprawling universe with multiple zoo animals and flashbacks and flash-forwards into a two-hour show. The stage adaptation, however, has done exactly that, winning several awards across the pond in England, including a Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play. As Life of Pi roared onto Broadway on March 30, 2023, critics raved about the magical puppetry, the realistic acting, and the breathtaking set design. Yes, Life of Pi on Broadway has all this in spades. But for fans who are familiar with the story, they’ll be left craving something more.