SHEAR MADNESS Is A Sheer Delight At Ivoryton Playhouse CT

Jordan Ahnquist as Tony the Mad Hairdresser and Patrick Noonan as Macho Man in Ivoryton Playhouse's SHEAR MADNESS. Photo Courtesy IP

SHEAR MADNESS Is A Sheer Delight At Ivoryton Playhouse CT

By Don Church and Tony Schillaci, Critics On The Aisle

What could be more fun in these tense times than to go to the theater to see a show that has you laughing out loud from start to finish?  That’s what you can expect at the Ivoryton Playhouse’s uproarious production of “Shear Madness”- where there’s zany action onstage even before the comedy begins!

This show is one of the most popular comedy productions in the world, first produced in Boston in 1980 and “has been delighting audiences ever since with its unique blend of madcap improvisation and spine-tickling mystery” as described by the Ivoryton Playhouse’s Executive/Artistic Director Jacqueline Hubbard.

The wacky whodunit is set in the Shear Madness hair salon on Main Street in Essex and the exceptional ensemble of brilliant actors follow the script while interspersing a gaggle of spontaneous up-to-the-minute gags, jokes, and uproarious physical comedy.

The cast is so terrific and quick that the show is different every night, giving aficionados of riotous comedy a reason to return to see the show again and again. Not giving anything away in this review, so no “spoiler alert!”

Voted "Best Comedy of the Year" seven times by the Boston Globe and recipient of the title "Best Play of the Year" by both the Chicago Sun-Times and the Philadelphia Enquirer, “Shear Madness” has also received the Raven Award from the Mystery Writers of America and has been inducted into the Comedy Hall of Fame, the first play ever to receive that accolade.

“Shear Madness” is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest running play in the history of the USA. The flagship Boston company has given birth to 50 productions in the U.S. and has been translated into 23 foreign languages, playing worldwide, including Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Madrid, Paris, Reykjavik, Rome, Tel Aviv, Melbourne, Johannesburg and Seoul. Over 12.5 million people worldwide have joined in the fun.

The production features the impish and buoyant Jordan Ahnquist*as Tony Whitcomb – the adorably manic hairdresser. Mr. Ahnquist’s performance alone is worth double the price of a ticket as he bounces from one end of the stage to the other as if he’s on springs.  Joining him onstage is Patrick Noonan* as Nick the cop, with an unthreatening, but dominating presence that’s coupled with a rough appealing charm and impeccable comic timing. Both these actors give 5 out of 5-star performances.

Lisa McMillan* is the elegant and wealthy Mrs. Schubert, a beauty shop regular. She swoops on to the stage in a blood red flash of a dress, and never is off-stage for the rest of the comedy. Her characterization is so amusingly spot-on that you’d expect to meet her at a fancy party in Old Lyme or Westport – champagne in hand, talking about the latest Broadway show, or how difficult it is to find a competent butler these days.

Ivoryton alum Bill Mootus* gives a deliciously villainous turn as not-too-honest antique dealer Eddie who kind of makes you want to boo him, while sexy-yet-slightly trashy manicurist Barbara DeMarco is brilliantly brought to life by Siobhan Fitzgerald* - another terrific part played by an exquisitely talented Ivoryton alum.

Lev Harvey makes his Playhouse debut – and a fine debut it is - as Mikey – the timid dim partner to Nick the cop. He’s constantly scribbling all the wrong stuff in his notebook, in perfect contrast to the dominant Nick. Think dumb cop, blustery cop.

Five top rate actors, five top rate performances. Excellently, perfectly timed improvisation. A laugh a minute ensemble effort that looks, oh, so easy.

The production is flawlessly directed by Bob Lohrmann whose impressive credits include being the Resident Director of the Kennedy Center production of “Shear Madness.” The pace of the show is fast and furious, and there’s one surprise after another with nary a stage wait.

Daniel Nischan has designed a stage set that will remind anyone who has ever been inside a small town beauty salon how 1970’s that kind of establishment really looks. Perfection, once again. Marcus Abbott’s lighting design has but one cue – leave the lights on! Costume design by Liz Saylor is inspired - especially in Tony’s tweety-bird outfit;  Barbara’s Victoria’s not-so-secret revealing décolletage (look it up); Nick’s Macho Man Pat’s jersey and Mrs. Shubert’s ensemble. It might also be noted that Mr. Nischan and Ms. Saylor collaborated on the beauty shop’s smart and attractive aprons. No, fortunately they’re not for sale in the lobby.

The actors aren’t electronically enhanced, and only two small mics are evident on the lower edge of the stage – giving credit to both Sound Designer Tate R. Burmeister and the talent of the actors themselves who know the ancient art of PROJECTING CLEARLY to the balcony. Audio Engineer Ray Smith provides a recorded musical score harking back to the 1970s – 1980s. Perfect for a boogie dance to “YMCA” in your seat. Stage Manager James Joseph Clark* along with a backstage prop crew keep a steady supply of towels, rubber gloves, scissors, shaving cream, hair dye, aprons and styptic pencils onstage at the appropriate times. It should be noted that no person’s hair was deliberately harmed during this production. Although several actors claimed to have received bad cuts. They always do.

“Shear Madness” runs through October 6th, 2019. That’s not much time to get to the theater to see it a second or third time. Almost a guarantee that you won’t see the same interpretation of this show twice in a row. But you will laugh – that IS guaranteed.

Performance times are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2pm. Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday and Saturday at 8pm. www.ivorytonplayhouse.org

*Denotes Members Actors Equity Association