Stage Review: 'Shear Madness' curls into permanent tease of silliness
Shear Madness at CLO Cabaret: (from left) Ingrid Sonnichsen, Mark Tinkey, Tom Schaller, Kristiann Menotiades and Neil A. Casey.
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One of the champions of interactive theater/cabaret is "Shear Madness," a comic whodunit that's been ensconced in other cities for two or three decades and has finally made its professional Pittsburgh debut at the CLO Cabaret at Theater Square.
In general, it's just what you'd expect of a jokey, stereotype-based comedy set in a unisex hair salon. For starters, I gritted my teeth for the gay jokes and broad-brush caricatures, but "Shear Madness" is so shameless and effervescent in its flood of puns, malaprops, double entendres and snarky comments -- the sort of groaners whose awfulness makes them even more fun -- that I soon surrendered happily to the silliness of it all. Most surprising is the clever and extensive tweaking of the script to Pittsburgh, here and now.
Four customers are enjoying the erratic and gossipy services of shop owner Tony and assistant Barbara when the landlord, a classical pianist, is murdered (or is it suicide?) in her upstairs apartment. Two of the customers turn out to be cops and conduct the subsequent investigation with the help (or hindrance) of the audience, which eventually gets to vote for a guilty party.
- Where: CLO Cabaret at Theater Square, 655 Penn Ave., Downtown.
- When: Through Sept. 28; Wed.-Fri. 7:30 p.m.; Sat. 2 and 7:30 p.m.; some Thurs. 1 p.m.
- Tickets: $34.50-39.50; 412-456-6666 or www.CLOcabaret.com.
The company then plays out that conclusion, but there are other possibilities -- you'd have to keep coming back (the CLO won't mind) to find out. All I know is that the three primary suspects have each been fingered in several performances so far.
As to that localizing: The hair salon is on the South Side, at a (nonexistent) address on Carson Street; the rich lady lives at a (nonexistent) address on Beechwood Boulevard; local radio voices deliver news bulletins; and the gossip is full of the material of our daily lives, both national and local. I couldn't count the Penguins references (they may diminish); and someone objects, "Hey! No cracks about Fred Rogers!"
There's also a scattering of raunchy allusions. "It's not rocket surgery," someone observes about hair science, but the evidence is that the "Shear" franchise has earned its success by pillaging the daily news and keeping itself local and current. Granted, Tony's "yuns" isn't quite right, and the reference to Marylynn Uricchio's PG column is a little off. But director Bob Lohrmann and creators Bruce Jordan and Marilyn Abrams (who adapted a more serious German play by Paul Portner) might have done that on purpose, to allow us our pleasing sense of superior local knowledge.
Neil A. Casey, borrowed from other productions elsewhere, is the soul of entertaining excess as Tony, matched by the corresponding dryness of Tom Schaller as a hard-hat turned cop. Kristiann Menotiades is cute and funny as the other hair dresser, and Ingrid Sonnichsen is snotty as the rich client -- if she's ever voted guilty, I bet she has a good back story. Greg Johnstone is the slippery antiques dealer we voted for, and Mark Tinkey plays the assistant cop.
If I could find my notes, I'd share my clues ... nah, find your own. There are plenty, since just about everyone is plausibly a suspect. The whole thing takes about 1 3/4 hours, including an intermission for gossip, food and drink -- and a chance to grill the cop.
First Published May 29, 2008 12:00 am