Gil Brady, Will Nash Broyles, Michael Kevin Baldwin, Patrick Noonan, Soneka Anderson, Sandy York. Photo by Marlena Aakjar.
Sharon Playhouse in Sharon, Connecticut
Written by Paul Pőrtner, directed by Bruce Jordan
“A haircut to dye.”
For sheer theatrical silliness, you can’t beat Paul Pőrtner’s play, “Shear Madness,” which is currently playing at the Sharon Playhouse in Sharon, Connecticut. A show that has been seen by over 13.4 million people, I’m surprised this is my first exposure to it. The theater’s trade journal, Variety, called it a “legitimate phenomenon”. The show opened in Boston in 1980 and did not close until 2020 due to the COVID pandemic. At one time, there were thirteen simultaneous productions and two touring companies. Its popularity is due, in large part, to the participation of its audience; in three separate segments of the show, viewers are encouraged to get into the action of the play and play detective.
It’s a murder mystery set in Tony’s beauty salon/barbershop, Shear Madness, in a building where the shop owner lives on the third floor and a famous classical pianist lives upstairs between him and the shop. Like all classic pranks, the shop set has three doors, and Karla Woodworth’s intricate set provides them all.
The plot is simple: at some point in the first act, everyone but one leaves the store, and during that half hour a murder is committed. Each character has a motive and each of them has an opportunity. Detective story? Who indeed! The police officer in charge, played with agility by Patrick Noonan, puts himself in professional mode and takes charge of the case. Noonan is very good at his job, and as Nick he puts together a bunch of probable cases. Whoever didn’t show up on opening night was his own likely storyline, but that might happen the night you see the show. The play is written to allow the city where you see it to become the setting for the play, so local references to places in the city and the people who live and work there are used for a good comedic note. In Sharon they don’t just talk about this town, but also many places in the neighboring county of Berkshire. This adds to the humor of the play.
Michael Kevin Baldwin plays Tony, a very gay stylist who washes hair; prepares a shave; and keeps everyone, male or female, on their toes. He starts the play about five minutes before the show starts, and you don’t want to miss a moment of his performance, so get settled in early.
As her manicurist/stylist, Barbara, Soneka Anderson plays a major role in the plot and investigation. She is lovely in this role: sweet but aggressive, strong-willed but docile. His client, Ms. Shubert is well represented by Sandy York, who brings new meaning to judgment. Mikey, whose haircut is a ruse, is played very well by Will Nash Broyles, who understands the comedic reaction very well. In the least funny role in the play, he achieves humor with his excellent timing.
And then there’s Eddie. Gil Brady embodies this enigmatic character to perfection. Whether it’s a simple antique dealer, or a lover, or a blackmailer, or just a bad man in the wrong place at the wrong time is up to you. Brady is doing very well with all the possibilities.
It’s a hilarious comedy in a Christie-like semi-melodrama. It is a spectacle that no one can escape without getting involved. I warmly recommend it to everyone.
‘Shear Madness’ plays at the Sharon Playhouse – Sharon, Connecticut – until September 11. For more information and tickets, call 860-364-7469 or visit their website.