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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media


Photo courtesy of Shear Madness

Photo courtesy of Shear Madness

For those of you who’ve had your head stuck in the sand, “Shear Madness” is one of the longest running plays in Boston. It has continuously garnered some of the best reviews from critics and audiences alike. The comedy is a unique as it includes the audience and keeps them guessing. The interactive whodunit theme allows fans to return time and again, never knowing exactly what to expect.

Though the play first debuted at the historic Charles Playhouse in Boston’s Theater District on January 29, 1980, the foundation for this phenomenon transpired more than fifteen years before that.

A play entitled “Scherenschnitt,” was scripted by German writer and psychologist Paul Portner in 1963. Bruce Jordan, a former high school teacher, was working with a musical in production in 1976, when he came across the screenplay. The idea interested him, and he proposed that he and Marilyn Abrams (an actress in the musical he was directing) create a version of the play in Lake George, New York. The first showing came two years later in 1978, when they opened “Shear Madness” with little more than a basic script.

The first year was filled with improvements and alterations, but the audience seemed to enjoy the kooky characters and ridiculous rhetoric. Jordan then had the brilliant idea to involve the audience in the context of the play. “If the audience has something funnier to say or do than the actors,” he explained, “let them. That is the basic magic of the play.”

After the success of “Shear Madness” grew, Jordan and Abrams were able to leave the lead roles and work on furthering the career of the reinvented play. The two bought the stage, screen, and television rights to the show. They created Cranberry Productions- about which they noted, “What else goes with a turkey?” to aid their growing hit.

The Boston Globe has proclaimed the play the “Best Comedy of the Year” an astounding seven times, and audiences from the Boston Area have continued to agree. Due to the impressive reviews, Jacobs and Abrams decided to move their play to Beantown. The show currently runs year round, still playing at the Charles Playhouse, Stage II, where it first emerged in Boston nearly 30 years ago.

While the audience is still encouraged to participate, they are now also allowed to purchase refreshments of the alcoholic kind prior to, and during, the show. Because of this availability, viewers and actors alike should expect possible drunken commentary.

The atmosphere of the Charles Playhouse offers an intimate feel for the audience, as if they too were in the eventful barbershop, waiting in line for the next available hairdresser. The actors are what make the performances pop, not only providing spectators with flat out funny lines, but also references to recent media, and local issues which make for an inside joke shared by everyone.

For instance, in Boston the actors are likely to mention hopes of the dreadful Yankees periling at the success of the beloved Red Sox. Performances in New York, however, I would assume are sure to leave out hopes of a Red Sox win.

While the show has traveled to Chicago and Washington DC, native Bostonians and tourists of our historic city, are thrilled to have the chance time and again to return to see whodunit.