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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Shear Madness: Good For Date Night

MiMi, our Arts Editor, said, “Mike, do you want to go to a play?” And then she said, “It’s Shear Madness,” and I was thinking, “What kind of silly shit is that…?”

Really, I’m a serious individual. Then I asked a woman to go, and she said, “Oh I love that play, I’ve seen it a couple of times, it’s never the same twice.”

Later, a co-worker asks what I’m going to see, and then she says, “Oh, I hear that’s great, I’ve heard it’s interactive, and never the same.”

I’d heard of Shear Madness, but obviously I didn’t know what the hell was going on. And I hadn’t been to a play, or on a date, in months, so I was enduring an appropriate amount of ridiculing about that, and my lack of recognition of Shear Madness was going unnoticed.

Shear Madness is at the Charles Playhouse, at the same location Blue Man Group is housed. It seems Shear Madness has been there for going on twenty-two years. I glimpse somewhere that it is in the Guinness Book of World Records. I also spy that it’s the longest running non-musical and, leafing through pages and pausing, I read that it is the site of a former prohibition era speakeasy.

It’s a little bit seedy, and a small space, it reminds me of the Boston Center for the Arts Black Box Theater. And it serves alcohol. So this place is scoring points in my book.

There’s a lounge upstairs and we get some drinks, then head downstairs where there’s another bar, with small tables arranged around a brightly-lit stage and seats against the walls. A couple of cast members are on stage silently goofing around.

At first I like the small setting, but am soon off-put by the small size of the “table” we are seated at, and the contortions required to attain our seats. I am sure these close quarters will prove the undoing of this evening.

Shear Madness is a murder mystery set in a unisex hair saloon at 155 Newbury Street. The two employees are Mike Thomas, who is so stereotypically gay it’s funny, and Barbara DiMarco, an equally stereotypical sex kitten.

Sitting to my left, so close we are touching, is a still attractive, adorned in diamonds, older woman. Half of a couple. Surely she will become petulant about sharing space with a scruffy someone like me. And at my table, so close we are touching, is my own mystery, my date.

After a few more minutes of goofing around, the stage lights get a little more intense and music starts, signaling the start of the play. The music quiets and half an hour of hilarious dialogue follows.

Right off the bat the audience is drawn into the action as Mike “makes a play” for a man seated at a table front and center. After some blatant homosexual humor Mike turns to the audience member and mouths the words “Call me” while holding an imaginary phone to his ear. Barbara’s dialogue also oozes sexuality.

As cast members run off and on stage, a murder takes place offstage. One of the customers turns out to be an undercover detective, Nick Rossetti, and he and another police officer try to recreate the events of the evening, asking for-and getting-help from the audience, who yell out corrections when suspects lie to try to make themselves appear innocent.

The play is fast paced and chock-full of references to current events. After hearing about Barbara’s close friendship with the deceased, another woman, someone asks, “One of those Vermont relationships?” When the detective is questioning one of the suspects, a customer, he says, “I know you have a record, petty theft, … forging birth certificates for Little Leaguers …”

By intermission everybody is feeling even closer to each other and the cast. As some of us get more drinks the cast members talk to people at the tables. When I return to my table only the lovely stranger I have as a neighbor is around. I bump her again as I’m sitting and I mumble, “sorry,” and she rubs her leg against mine as if to say “that’s OK.” My date returned and we chat for awhile, like everyone else we are in good spirits.

After intermission the audience joins in questioning the actors, and then Nick takes over again. He asks for a show of hands from the audience as to who we believe is guilty. Then, through some slick acting, he proves that character is guilty. That person protests, and they wrap the show up in the same funny style as they began.

You almost can’t help having a good time at Shear Madness. I sure had a ball: on my date; from the play; and from accidentally rubbing against my neighbor. And, to end my little mystery, MiMi, I only kissed my date on the check.

But I would definitely return to Shear Madness with a date. Though the tickets I had, for a small table, were priced at $34, Student Rush tickets are sold the day of the show for half price at BosTix locations.