The hilarious whodunit that unfolds in the Kennedy Center’s production of “Shear Madness” is so much fun that even the actors can’t keep straight faces. On-stage investigators turn to the audience for help in solving this high-energy murder mystery, and the result is fun for all involved.
The comedic mystery begins in a cheery hair salon with ’80s music blaring. The sass-talking, gum-snapping Barbara De Marco (Margot Moresland) enters wearing an electric blue dress and bright red fishnets. As she paints her nails, her flamboyant boss Tony Whitcomb (John McGivern) joins her on stage in the part of a stereotypical gay hairdresser who sings and dances to Diana Ross.
While the two overact, with exaggerated movements that are well suited for the play, they prepare for a day of business. Following the discovery of their landlord and renowned pianist Isabel Czerny’s body, the play includes the audience in the already overwhelmingly silly larks of a dynamic cast.
Aaron Shields, who plays the role of Police Chief Detective Nick Rossetti, reveals a hilarious performance as he calls upon the audience to point fingers and help him pin down the murderer while batting off Whitcomb’s sexual advancements.
While the audience shouts questions and theories to him, Detective Rossetti struggles to stay focused as Tony continues to hit on him. But all is lost when Tony gives him an impromptu kiss that sparks uncontrolled laughter from the audience and stage, momentarily putting the play on hold.
It is this improvisational acting that has allowed “Shear Madness” to steal the hearts of more than 6,000 D.C. audiences during the past 14 years.
The key to the play’s success lies in outstanding performances and original audience participation-based structure of the comedy, which eliminated the stuff-shirt approach of theater and allowed patrons to enter a skewed version of their hometown.