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Shear Madness  

Shear Madness

Photo - Carol Rosegg

Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors


Just around the corner from New World Stages in New York is a neighborhood 9th Avenue hair styling salon called, "Shear Madness."

Okay, full disclosure, Shear Madness is actually Will Cotton's generic beauty salon that's playing ON the New World Stages. No hair styling, no manicures, except on stage during show time.

Called "America's longest-running comedy," Shear Madness proves one thing, it delivers. Audiences have a great time. They connect with the plot, freely express opinions, and interact easily with the cast. Created by Bruce Jordan and Marilyn Abrams, Shear Madness was adapted from Scherenschnitt, a 1963 German play by Paul Pörtner. As this loose version travels throughout the work, the production is constantly snipped and teased to fit the various cities. Understandably, in the New York. the shop, they say, is around the corner from the New World Stages and the characters are distinctly New Yorkers. Stereotypical? You bet.

All the action takes place in the salon and except for two undercover detectives, Nick (Patrick Noonan) and Mike (Adam Gerber), everyone is a suspect in the murder that is about to take place. There's the irrepressible gay owner, Tony Whitcomb (Jordan Ahnquist) and a flashy, trashy, fast-talking stylist, Barbara DeMarco (Jennifer Ellis), who seems to have a relationship with customer, Eddie Lawrence (Jeremy Kushnier), a shady "used antiques dealer."

Lynne Wintersteller dashes in, playing Mrs. Shubert, an upper-East Side socialite clutching her Bergdorf Goodman shopping bags, and calling for a quick spruce up before catching her plane to Bermuda.

And the victim? We never meet her, a once-famed pianist Isabel Czerny, who was repeatedly stabbed by barber shears as she rehearses Rachmaninoff, preparing for her return to the concert stage. When her body is discovered, the two undercover detectives, Nick and Mike, quickly flash their NYPD badges, revealing that they are investigating the murder. The action stops, the house lights go up and the audience is called to figure it out. Which customer, or hairdresser, killed Isabel?

Ticket buyers are all eye-witnesses who must replay the events to remember the steps of each character leading up to the killing, their exits, entrances, and contradictions. Who has the strongest motive that might lead to murder. It turns out that memory can be quite selective but in the end, an audience vote determines the killer.

The actors are skilled with snappy improvisations, quick on their feet and interacting sharply with the audience. Ad libs are flying. Ahnquist stands out as the swishy charmer, deftly playing to the audience throughout the show. How he relishes shampooing hair, it's priceless. Another standout, Noonan, as the blustery gumshoe who keeps a semblance of control and shows his comedic skill in the sketch with the barber chair. Noonan keeps the show moving and the audience active, even during intermission.

Remember to get to the theater enough early enough to see the salon set up for business. Bruce Landon Yauger adds the fun of golden-oldies from the '60's and '70's. Shear Madness is an infectious game anyone can play, youngsters and parents, and all in-betweens can enjoy the loony laughs and if you're ready to get into it, Shear Madness is for you.

Shear Madness
New World Stages
340-West 50 Street
Previews: September 24, 2015, Opened: October 22, 2015. Open Run
Two hours. One intermission
Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors