by Paul Portner
Adapted by Marilyn Abrams & Bruce Jordan
Directed by Bruce Jordan
Florida Studio Theatre's Gompertz Theatre
Coconut and Palm Aves., Sarasota, 941-366-9000
February 18 through March 13, 2010

Reviewed by Marie J. Kilker


A mystery play and a comedy. An interactive entertainment full of improvisation. An adaptation of a 1963 German play and now the longest running theatrical in venues throughout America. At FST, it's also loaded with local jokes and references as well as audience volunteers providing clues to the murderer. Upstairs of the mod, fully working (as demonstrated) Shear Madness beauty shop wallpapered with palm fronds and décor of lime green and purple against white, murder comes to Isabel Czerny. Someone has stabbed the landlady, a once famous soprano, in the throat with scissors. Because she had phoned police about possibly being blackmailed, a lieutenant and his assistant are on the scene to investigate the fatal crime.

There's reason to suspect everyone who's been in the shop except for short crucial moments, since all had motives. First enlisting onlookers' observations immediately through intermission, Officer Nick O'Brien (Timothy Goodwin, deftly assuming and keeping authority) next uses audience help reconstructing all that happened before the homicide discovery. He's also assisted by Nick Caruso's jovial Mikey, who reports findings from headquarters.

The spotlight is perpetually on Michael Kevin Baldwin as ferociously fey shop owner Tony, always ready with a pun or a barb as loud as his fuschia tee and sneakers. Beautician Barbara may be cunning under the brash bimbo exterior assumed by Juliana Black. What did handsome, tailored Joseph Ditmyer's Eddie Lawrence really do when he went to a rest room and returned but without staying for a haircut? To whom and to what purpose did customer Mrs. Shubert (Barbara Bradshaw, intriguing) make a secret phone call?

In between considerable laughs, the entertained join the entertainers and---capped off by a vote that determines the murderer---a good time is had by all. Because the vote can change, so can the end of Shear Madness each performance. Depending on its popularity, FST may also extend the performance schedule. Judging from audience reaction on press night, all facets of the entertainment will be in evidence beyond originally planned.

Designers to be commended are: Lauren Feldman, Set; Robert Warren, Costumes; Bruce Price and Matthew Klein, Lighting. Forrest Richards is Production Stage Manager.

Running time: two hours.

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