In its 13th season at the Kennedy Center, you might think Shear Madness would lose some of its allure. It doesn’t. With a new, fresh cast and the old entertaining story, the improvisational comedy continues to entertain audiences.
The comedy opens in the hair salon, with the owner, Tony (Jay Burns), giving a haircut to Mike (Matt Sawyer), who is an undercover police officer. The rest of the cast is introduced through casual conversation filled with witty one-liners.
Everyone in the cast complains about the second-floor tenant, an old concert pianist with an apparent mean streak. At the end of the first act, she has been murdered. This is where the comedy really takes off. While the plot is somewhat stereotypical, it is the audience participation that makes the show entertaining.
Shear Madness breaks down the traditional “fourth wall” in theater that clearly divides the cast members from the audience. By allowing audience members to ask questions of the four suspects, the crowd gets into the act, asking interesting and insightful questions. The actors then respond to these questions in a convincing and hilarious manner.
At the center of the show is the lead detective, Nick Rosetti, played by Aaron Shields, who leads the question and answer sessions. His stage presence is incredible, directing the audience members’ questions in a way that keeps the action lively.
While the show is playing at theaters throughout the nation, with the longest running performances in Boston and Chicago, the humor is localized. The hair salon is located in Georgetown. Tony, who is obviously gay, makes references to Dupont Circle, and jokes about D.C. police and Linda Tripp.
This is the first season this cast has worked together. The chemistry between them, however, makes it seem as if they have been together for much longer. The straight-laced Rosetti is continuously upset by the flirtatious Tony. Shields and Burns are wonderful together because the interaction between them is so natural. The two characters kiss at one point, causing Shields to break out laughing.
Shear Madness offers a fresh take on the theater. The show allows everyone to get involved and become part of the show. You’re the actor. You’re the audience. And you’re entertained.
Shear Madness continues indefinitely at the Kennedy Center.