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Review Roundup: SHEAR MADNESS Opens Off-Broadway

The open-ended Off-Broadway engagement of Shear Madness opened last night, November 11, at New World Stages/Stage 4 (340 West 50th Street).

Bruce Jordan directs a cast that features Adam Gerber, Jeremy Kushnier, Kate Middleton, Patrick Noonan, Jordan Ahnquist and Lynne Wintersteller.

SHEAR MADNESS has scenic and lighting design by Will Cotton, costume design by Rodney Harper, and sound designer by Bruce Yauger.

SHEAR MADNESS is America's hilarious whodunit where the audience gets to solve the crime. Set in a local hair salon that turns into a wacky murder scene, the play is filled with up-to-the-minute humor and is different every time you see it!

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Laura Collins-Hughes, The New York Times: Directed by Bruce Jordan..."Shear Madness" is a very well-oiled mousetrap...Where "Shear Madness" has the advantage is in its inclusive spirit of fun. Adapted from a 1963 German play by Paul Pörtner, it asks each audience to solve the killing of the shop's unseen landlady...Some of the show's humor skates into uncomfortable-relic territory...Other gags, like one involving Ben Carson, are as fresh as the latest news cycle. But this is genuinely all-ages entertainment, not a "family-friendly" show that will leave grown-ups stultified. There's plenty of silliness for those in the grade school crowd, and lots of sly double entendres that will sail right over their heads...The tone depends hugely on the performers, and here this production does very well, particularly with Mr. Noonan, who, as the lead investigator, is impressively skilled at crowd control, and Mr. Ahnquist, whose Tony is an unapologetic sprite.

Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter: The creators might have waited a little too long, as interactive entertainments seemed to have peaked in popularity years ago with Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding and its ilk. But judging by the enthusiastic audience at a recent matinee, perhaps there's still an appetite for this sort of thing. To be fair, there's a reason that Shear Madness has been a long-running hit despite endless critical carping. It's genuinely funny, albeit in a lowbrow way that requires checking your brains at the door. This version, staged in its usual fashion with local references and up-to-the-minute jokes, lacks the specificity that has made the show so endearing to other cities...But a talented cast mostly succeeds in bringing it to comic life...the overall atmosphere is so giddily loony that it becomes infectious, and the talented ensemble work so hard at getting laughs that their efforts are justly rewarded.

Marilyn Stasio, Variety: ...it owes a lot to Patrick Noonan, a broad-chested, big-voiced actor who plays Nick O'Brien, the undercover cop who makes the suspects in this farce re-enact their movements leading up to the murder, and who also orchestrates the Q&A session with the audience. The veteran performer has played this pivotal character in a number of cities, and he holds the show together...There's no story to speak of, just a lot of frantic coming and going (very well paced by Jordan) to confuse the audience (second reminder: take notes!) and lots of lousy jokes. Lots and lots of lousy jokes...The game-playing structure of the show is cleverly designed and very well executed. And the audience participation is silly fun. But if you want to stick around town for a while, you really have to get to know us better.

Sandy MacDonald, Time Out NY: ...In a Pavlovian feedback loop, audiences can congratulate themselves on catching the site-specific allusions. In the new New York version, for instance, namechecks include Chris Christie, Trump, the Mets.... Sure, some of the jokes are a bit belabored (many are outright groaners), but the cast deserves props for surpassing the script. Director Bruce Jordan has gathered an excellent cadre of character actors for Shear Madness's belated New York premiere...Salon owner Tony Whitcomb is so stereotypically gay, the portrayal might border on offensive were Jordan Ahnquist not so obstreperously appealing. Kate Middleton, playing Tony's manicurist-receptionist, is his world-weary antithesis...Lynne Wintersteller aces the role of the Park Avenue matron, achieving an authentic aura of old money with offhanded aplomb. Jeremy Kushnier is a tad too squirrelly as a crooked antiques dealer..,However, hulking Patrick Noonan and eager-beaver Adam Gerber are just right as undercover detectives...Well acted if not exactly captivating, Shear Madness is as insubstantial as Trump's coiffure. It's entertainment whipped up for those who find murder, at least in fictional form, potentially uproarious.

Ryan Leeds, The Broadway Blog: New York audiences now have the unfortunate opportunity to experience what millions of theatergoers in Washington, D.C., Boston, Chicago, Barcelona, Paris, Rome, Melbourne and other global cities have endured: Shear Madness. This supposedly hilarious "comedy" holds the Guinness record for being the longest running play in the United States, which supports my belief that bad taste, when accompanied by strong buzz and the power of suggestion, can be blindly packaged and sold to the masses...At best, the humor is juvenile and rarely funny. The script changes often based on current events, so expect to hear jabs about Ben Carson, Donald Trump, the Clintons, Bill Cosby, and closeted homosexuals. Don't expect anything clever, though...Credit should be given to the hardworking cast, each of who handles the improvisational quality with ease.

Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg

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