A Cut Above
It's Shear Madness all over America!
This success is most evident in Boston, where the current production of Shear Madness is celebrating its 20th birthday. This laugh-riot locomotive seems to have enough fuel to steam on for another 20 years; Beantown theatergoers keep coming back for another trip. Shear Madness invaded the 199-seat Charles Playhouse Stage II in 1980, and has become such a popular fixture that its address - 74 Warrenton Alley - has been renamed Shear Madness Alley.
The comedy revolves around an introverted concert pianist who is murdered above a unisex barbershop. It's up to the detective and the audience to deduce which of six suspects is the murderer. Was it Barbara, the tough-as-nails hairdresser? Tony, a fabulously gay barber? Or Eddie, an antique dealer? The crime unfolds over the course of two acts and, after the intermission, the detective quizzes the audience, encouraging them to blurt out comments and grill the suspects. The ending is different each night, depending upon the reactions of the actors to the audience's queries. But it's not required that everyone participate; you can act the armchair Hercule Poirot or just sit back and enjoy the laughs. This unpredictable formula, coupled with casts comprised of top local comic talent, is what keeps people returning for more. Shear Madness is the perfect hair tonic for a wrinkled brow.