Reviewed by Suzanne Angeo (Member, American Theatre Critics Association)
and Greg Angeo (Member Emeritus, San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle)
Photos courtesy of Sean Carter Photography
If you love intelligent, snarky comedy improv (think “Saturday Night Live”, the Marx Brothers) with the added fun of audience participation, then Meadow Brook Theatre’s newest offering is the show for you. But you need to pay close attention once you take your seat: everything that happens onstage may be a clue to finding a killer.
With more than 12,000 performances under its belt, “Shear Madness” is one of the longest-running non-musical plays in history. Based on a murder mystery called “Scherenschnitt” by German playwright Paul Portner, it was adapted by Marilyn Abrams and Bruce Jordan. Set entirely in a local hair salon, it is, at its core, a door-slamming farce, but also has an ingenious, contemporary storyline with an ever-changing ending that’s adapted to wherever it’s performed. So, at Meadow Brook, the action takes place in the turquoise-and-coral “Shear Madness” salon in downtown Rochester. There are countless local references to Metro Detroit and Oakland County in general, and Rochester in particular. This is a great way to immediately draw the audience into the story and identify with the characters.
Somebody gets murdered, of course, and the talented ensemble cast of six (all members of Actors Equity) has its way with your funny bone. Most are veterans of the show, having performed in versions at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC and off-Broadway, among other places. Timothy Goodwin is dangerously goofy as salon manager Tony, who time and again garners spontaneous applause over his antics. Leslie Ann Handelman as stylist Barbara, a natural in red stilettos, is a tough and funny broad who seems to have a secret. Salon regular and slightly daffy society matron Mrs Shubert is performed by Lynnae Lehfeldt, a teacher of voice and movement in Oakland University’s theatre department.
Describing the other characters may give some of the fun away, so let’s just say that Chris Stinson as Mike, Cory Cunningham as Eddie, and Gil Brady as Nick – any one of these guys may or may not be there for a haircut – all display solid comic timing and improv skills. During intermission, the cast remains onstage, so audience members can come up, ask questions and search for clues.
Taut, snappy direction by Travis Walter doesn’t let you catch your breath, with nary a slow moment in the show. Brian Kessler created the simple, stylish set. True, some of the jokes border on the lame, but it’s all in good fun and fits with the light-hearted spirit of the show. It’ll improve your mood and bring out your inner armchair detective. And no matter how many times you see it, you’ll never see the same show again.
Meadow Brook Theatre’s season is supported in part by the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Kresge Foundation, the Fred and Barbara Erb Family Foundation, the Shubert Foundation and the Meadow Brook Theatre Guild.
When: Now through October 29, 2017
8:00 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays & Fridays; Saturday, October 28
6:00 p.m. Saturday, October 21
6:30 p.m. Sunday, October 15 & 22
2:00 p.m. Wednesdays & Sundays; Saturday, October 28
Tickets $28 to $43
Where: Meadow Brook Theatre at Wilson Hall
378 Meadow Brook Rd
Rochester Hills, MI 48309