BWW Review: SHEAR MADNESS at Good Theater

BWW Review: SHEAR MADNESS at Good Theater

Full disclosure. In the past 23 years, I have appeared in 800 murder mystery dinner theater shows. My motto is "I may have done the crime, but never the time."

Having acted in a mystery show, I can wholeheartedly say that the Good Theater in Portland takes the genre to stellar heights in a return production of Shear Madness after a highly successful run in 2016. An original production of the madcap whodunnit has run in Boston for 38 years and in Washington, DC for 29 years. It is part mystery mixed in with a heavy dose of improvised moments and ever changing topical one liners that will charm even the most stoic of audiences.

The show takes place in the Shear Madness hair salon, conveniently set in Portland, Maine. Barbara DeMarco (Kathleen Kimball) runs the shop along with the over the top and gay stereotyped, Tony Whitcomb (Joe Bearor). The duo has no problems letting a customer wait for a hair styling if there is the opportunity to lip synch and do their own dance styling while the radio plays classic rock hits.

On what might be a typical day, Mikey Thomas (Conor Riordan Martin) comes in for a quick cut and wash, Nick O'Brien (Timothy C. Goodwin) is here for a relaxing shave, and Mrs. Shubert (Laura Houck) needs just about a complete make over. Among the array of customers is also Eddie Lawrence (Paul Drinan) who never quite makes it to the salon chair but is keenly interested in the goings-on at the shop.

So, what could possibly go wrong? Well, just about anything as each person shares a concern or outright anger regarding the concert pianist who lives in the apartment above the salon. All I can say is that her story becomes quite a mystery.

The show has a script to set the stage for things to happen. But it serves only as a launching pad for ad-libbed moments, improvised gimmicks, and unexpected twists as the audience drives the questioning in the crime investigation and, ultimately, determines who the criminal will be among the chief suspects.

The ensemble cast perfectly blends the expected and unexpected in a fast-paced jaunt that hardly leaves a moment to breath. The troupe packs a punch in a show that speeds by in just under two hours including the intermission.

Bearor is the comic foil taking command of every spare moment to throw in a comment or all-knowing glance as the action transpires.

Goodwin is a master of keeping the pace of the show going as he blends the scripted material with questions coming non-stop from the audience.

The remaining cast members each shine wonderfully making it seem effortless to create a frenzied comedy that demands the audience's attention.

The set is alive with color and remarkably realistic. There's running water and electricity wired into all the equipment, and with fully operational styling chairs and well stocked supplies, the Good Theater could offer hair styling on the side.

On the evening that I saw the show, one of the male characters was chosen to have committed the crime based on a vote by the audience. Remember that this can change from show to show and that there are multiple endings to this one of a kind mystery experience.

Brian P. Allen, executive and artistic director for Good Theater, directed the show and made a wise choice to bring Shear Madness back to Portland for a return visit. It is just the right prescription for the midwinter blues.

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From This Author Dan Marois

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