A new comedy opened on Nov. 11, at New World Stages in New York City. Created and originally produced by Marilyn Abrams and Bruce Jordan, “Shear Madness” is one of the funniest shows to open in New York this year. Jordan directs this “whodunnit” play that actively includes the audience in helping solve a crime. The show uses good character development to allow anyone of them to be the guilty person. The audience’s observation of clues throughout the first part of the show helps them in pointing the finger at the guilty one.
Although it just opened in New York, “Shear Madness” is not a new play. It started back in in the summer of 1976 while Bruce Jordan was working at a theatre in upstate New York. He came across a play entitled “Scherenschnitt” written in 1963 by German writer and psychologist Paul Pörtner. The playwright had written the script to use as a study of how people perceive or misinterpret reality. The brief play was set in a unisex hair salon and revolved around an off-stage murder of a concert pianist. Subjects were asked to solve the murder based on their individual perceptions of the events and the six stereotypical characters surrounding the murder. Intrigued by the concept, Bruce suggested that he and Marilyn Abrams stage the play in Lake George. They opened their production with the title “Shear Madness” in 1978 with nothing more than a basic outline of a script. Bruce and Marilyn performed the lead roles. Additionally, they honed it into a full-fledged play. Over the years, “Shear Madness” has played in places such as Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington, DC and San Francisco with licensed successful productions across the United States and around the world. Now it has arrived in New York City.
“Shear Madness” has plenty of good story content to work with to solve the crime. The show is similar to its original script where two people work in a beauty shop and they service the customers that come in. The shop is in a building owned by a former concert pianist who the audience never meets. They hear the music she plays in the background. Her murder is what causes the show to become introspective but it is done on a broader scale than just stereotypical characters. In fact, there is a lot of action and movement that takes place before the section of audience participation so there is much to consider and discuss. After a certain amount of discussion, the play resumes so that the crime can be solved and the show can end. And in the end, the audience is asked to not tell what happened.
But what really makes this show come alive is the acting from a very appealing cast. They are funny and very expressive and in some instances very extreme in what they are thinking and doing. Some of the actions dealing with shampoos and shaves is really hilarious. It’s a very hard working cast too in that they don’t come out of character during the “break” or intermission. Instead, they continue to talk with audience members about their thoughts and questions concerning the case at hand. They encourage audience members to give their ideas aloud. They make it a very comfortable atmosphere to the point where you feel like you are a part of the show rather than watching it. This hard working cast includes Kate Middleton, Adam Gerber, Jordan Ahnquist, Jeremy Kushnier, Patrick Noonan, and Lynne Wintersteller with understudies Mary Ann Conk, and Ethan Dubin.
If you are looking for a fun-filled evening out with friends, “Shear Madness” is a good show to see. This is also a very good show for group get-togethers. The theater at New World Stages is perfectly set up to give a good view of a very bright and well-designed set from every seat. Tickets from $49.50 are available online at Telecharge.com, by phone at 212-239-6200 or at the Box Office at New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street. For more information, visit ShearMadness.com.