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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 8, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 23
Shear Madness is truly a cut above
Arts & Entertainment
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Shear Madness is truly a cut above

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

SHEAR MADNESS
MOORE THEATRE
Through June 24


Shear Madness is a comedy production whose name explains it all. The show combines elements of campy comedy mystery and improv performance with a heavy emphasis on audience participation. Using localized humor that is written into the script specifically for each city's run, this show is fun for all ages and tastes.

The setting is a hair salon called, yes, Shear Madness, located on Seattle's Capitol Hill. Run by Tony Whitcomb (Michael Kevin Baldwin) and his assistant, Barbara DeMarco (Mary Ann Conk), the shop's patrons include Eddie Lawrence (Joe Ditmyer), a dealer of 'used antiques' who is a walk-in client of the salon, and one of the shop's more regular clientele, the socialite Mrs. Shubert (Lisa McMillan). It's a small shop situated under the apartment of former chanteuse Isabel Czerny. When Isabel is found stabbed to death with a pair of haircutting scissors, detective Nick O'Brien (Patrick Noonan) steps in and quickly discovers that everyone had a reason for wanting the upstairs neighbor dead. He puts the shop under lockdown and then turns to the audience for help in solving the murder.

The audience-participation section is almost as much fun as the play itself. The police turn up the house lights and ask the audience for information on what they observed, relying on their memories for clues in finding the killer(s). Questions are asked and theories are shared, making the amateur sleuths the heroes of the show. But this is not a one-sided endeavor, as the audience directly asks questions of the characters on stage, as well as the police. And the 'shear' beauty of it is that no two shows are alike. Since the ending depends on the audience's view and vote, the situation allows a different conclusion each time.

The entire cast is very adept at improvisation. Baldwin as the flamboyant stylist Whitcomb is very funny with each exaggerated movement, and is sharp on the commentary when ad-libbing dialogue with the audience. His tough-demeanor assistant is played by Conk as a combination of Rhea Perlman, Nancy Walker, and Peg Bundy. Practically every move she makes garners laughs, whether it's related to her flighty behavior or her unique fashion sense.

But it's not just the acting that makes this show highly enjoyable. The research team for the tour has done its homework and there are lots of jokes relating to local humor and situations. Comments about the Sonics, the Seattle Police Department, Capitol Hill, and Tukwila are just a few of the targets lampooned by the cast. The comments fly easily and help make the entire production fun every time you see it.

Shear Madness is billed as 'the longest-running non-musical play in the world.' It opened in January 1980 at the Charles Playhouse in Boston, where it is still playing. Another production has been running since 1987 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. The play has also run continuously in Seoul and Athens since 1998.

In celebration of Seattle Pride Month, a special 'Shear Pride Happy Hour' wine reception will precede the Friday, June 15, performance of Shear Madness. For special discounted tickets, enter the promo code SHEARPRIDE when ordering at www.stgpresents.org.

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