What would happen if Sherlock Holmes and Miss Marple guest starred on Whose Line Is It Anyway?
By Andrew Andrews
Tony and Barbara operate the Shear Madness Unisex Hair Salon on Main Street in Sharon, CT.
Or, at least they did when we saw the show.
For countless people before us, Shear Madness existed on some other street in some other town.
Shear Madness is one of the longest-running non-musical plays in the world, yet each performance of this comedic murder mystery is unique. Not only does the location change depending on where it’s played, so do the mentions of nearby landmarks. As do the references to recent current events, and any number of other improvisations.
What’s consistent is that the never-seen landlady has been “murdered to death” in her upstairs apartment. Also: as the cops reconstruct the scene, the audience is invited to provide corrections, question the suspects, and collectively determine whodunit by majority “V-O-A-T” vote.
When we attended, Eddie was the culprit—but that’s not a spoiler, because when you attend, perhaps it will be Barbara, Tony, or even Mrs. Shubert.
Shear Madness survived forty years at the Charles Playhouse in Boston, thirty-five years and counting at the Kennedy Center in DC, a brief pre-pandemic appearance in Manhattan and who-knows-how-many productions worldwide.
Bursting with physical comedy, topical humor, childishness that will please the kiddies and double entendre for the rest of us, Shear Madness had our audience cracking up throughout the show, as I’m sure it’s done at every performance since its 1963 premiere in Ulm, Germany.
The fun begins with silent physical comedy that’s already taking place on stage before you even get to your seat, continues through the intermission (when you are invited to consult Detective Nick with your theories in the lobby) and doesn’t let go until the suspect is arrested in the final scene.
If you’re looking to attend a serious performance amongst theatergoers who know how to behave themselves… stay far, far away from the Sharon Playhouse during this production! At our Sunday matinée, kids throughout the house were jumping out of their seats to point out discrepancies, while senior citizens loudly discussed the action throughout the performance.
That’s not to say that this production is in any way amateur: the director and three of the cast members have extensive experience performing this show in other municipalities, so they know what it takes to make it the best it can be every time. Even the newbies are funny and professional—don’t look at the bios until after the show, and see if you can tell who’s been doing Shear Madness for ages, versus who’s in it for the first time.
Pro-tip: the width of each seat seems to vary; I had to trade places with my smaller partner when we determined that one of our seats was somehow about two inches wider than the other! But provided you don’t get stuck in a squeezer, it’s easy to get your money’s worth of pleasure from this show, whether you splurge for primo placement up front, or settle for the cheap seats in the back.
Just be careful not to die of laughter.
Andrew Andrews attended Shear Madness at Bobbie Olsen Theater in Sharon on Sunday, August 28, 2022 @ 3:00pm to write this review.