Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires

Shear Madness
Ivoryton Playhouse
Review by Zander Opper | Season Schedule (updated)

Also see Zander's review of Nunsense


Bill Mootos and Siobhan Fitzgerald
Photo by Jonathan Steele
What can possibly be said about the popular Shear Madness, currently being presented at Ivoryton Playhouse in a bright and rowdy production, at this late date? As adapted by Marilyn Abrams and Bruce Jordan from a German play written by Paul Portner, Shear Madness just recently celebrated forty years of playing in Boston. It is one of the longest running plays in theatre history, so it was with more than a bit of curiosity that I took my seat at Ivoryton Playhouse, having never seen this show before.

Shear Madness is supposedly largely improvised, with an up-to-the-minute quality on current topics that is truly astonishing. A murder mystery, with a crazy comic streak and filled with jokes and mayhem, it asks the audience to be more than an observer in deciding the final fate of how the show will end.

Shear Madness may not be considered a great piece of theater, but, as far as fun and laughter goes, it is certainly a crowd pleaser, with the audience lapping it up at the performance I attended. Also helping this production is the fact that three of the performers come from the 2015 Off-Broadway production of the show.

The actors are sharp as a tack and they play off each other with manic ease. The setting is a hair salon (beautifully designed by Daniel Nischan), with at least three doors that allow for farce-like comedy when the show calls for it. Director Bob Lohrmann has set his cast loose, and they make the most of their every moment onstage.

If there is a stand-out in the cast, it is Jordan Ahnquist as Tony Whitcomb, an over-the-top gay hairdresser with a smart mouth and a quick, razor-like wit. Ahnquist certainly seems to be having the time of his life onstage in a part that, according to the program, he has played many times in the past, including in the recent Off-Broadway production. Yet he keeps all of the comedy fresh and he can sell both good and bad jokes with cracker-jack ease.

Also from the New York production is Patrick Noonan, who is formidable as Nick O'Brien, an undercover police officer investigating the murder mystery in the show. Noonan is a delight in this part and his chemistry with Ahnquist is infectious, with one showstopping moment between the two actors that had Noonan in hysterics for a bit before he regained his composure.

The extravagantly funny Lisa McMillan shines as Mrs. Shubert, displaying a dry wit in a role she has played many times. Joining these three veterans of Shear Madness are the sassy Siobhan Fitzgerald, as a slightly trashy and provocative hairdresser named Barbara DeMarco; the adorable Lev Harvey, as Mikey Thomas, a somewhat nervous young police officer assisting Noonan; and Bill Mootos, who plays his role of the somewhat mysterious and possibly deceitful businessman Eddie Lawrence to the hilt.

The terrific costumes are by Elizabeth A. Saylor, and Marcus Abbott's lighting design is just perfect throughout.

Since the main conceit of Shear Madness is that the audience ultimately decides who they think the murderer is, the play contains several different endings, presenting one based on the audience's response. So, you could see the show multiple times and possibly view a different ending each time. Perhaps this is the reason it has been running so long. It definitely should be seen at least once, so make your way to Ivoryton Playhouse for some fun and frolics, and more than a bit of mystery.

Shear Madness runs through October 6, 2019, at Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton CT. For tickets and information, please visit www.ivorytonplayhouse.org or call the box office at 860-767-7318.


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