Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Los Angeles

Shear Madness Is Sheer Pleasure
Review by John Lariviere

Also see John's interview with Margot Moreland

Margot Moreland and
Tom Wahl

The Actor's Playhouse has opened their 10th anniversary season at the Miracle Theatre with the comedic murder mystery, Shear Madness. Now in its 24th consecutive year in Boston, and 17th in Washington, D.C., Shear Madness is America's longest running play. Semi-interactive and improvisational shows such as Tony and Tina's Wedding and The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which allow the audience to chose the ending each night, all owe much to the format established by this show. It was the first of it's kind. Add to each production a few current pop-culture references and some local touches of humor to personalize the show, and Shear Madness has it all. Interestingly enough, the idea for this show was born from case study research on the influence of group dynamics and mass perception. Who could have known it would represent itself in something delightfully akin to an extended Carol Burnett comedy skit?

Actor's Playhouse has built the historic Miracle Theatre into a three-stage performing arts center, producing theater year round. They have received nearly 50 Carbonell Awards, including "Best Producer of a Musical" in South Florida. It is their hope that their latest show, Shear Madness, will have a long and successful run locally, as it has done so very well elsewhere.

Shear Madness takes place in a Coral Gables hair salon. The gay salon owner, a buxom manicurist, and assorted customers all become suspects when a world famous pianist living above the salon is murdered. The cast for this show is topnotch. Tom Wahl as the salon owner is a stitch and is able to ride his potentially stereotyped role with both fun and freshness. He and talented actress Margot Moreland, as Barbara DeMarco, made me laugh more before the first line was ever spoken than I have laughed during entire comedies. That comes as no surprise considering that Miss Moreland will be celebrating her 1,000th performance of the show next week. She has performed the part in Broward and in Washington, D.C. over the past eight years. And the Actors' Playhouse is planning a special celebration to commemorate her 1,000th show on October 28th.

Linda Bernhard as the wealthy socialite is just right, reminiscent of so many of our own local "ladies who lunch." Oscar Cheda as Eddie Rodriquez made me chuckle more than once in the interactive portion of the show, as he handles himself so well. Part of the entertainment of course is watching the audience clamor to be part of the action, and the cast is clamoring to keep it all going smoothly. And as the audience picks the killer each night, you may never see the same show twice. Even the salon decor, the costumes, and the music deserve a grin. This is a real crowd pleaser.

Shear Madness runs through January 2nd at the Actor's Playhouse, with possible extensions. The theatre is affiliated with Actor's Equity Association and offers a full range of classes for all experience levels. The Miracle Theatre is located at 280 Miracle Mile in Coral Gables. For information on tickets, season subscriptions, and group rates, please call (305) 444-9293, or go to the website at

Photo: Alberto Romeu Studio

-- John Lariviere

See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- Kevin Johnson

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