Saskatoon StarPhoenix



Sharp but not cutting, Shear Madness has solved the mystery of interactiv­e theatre.

It’s part play, part improv and part participat­ory event. It allows you to merely watch the story unfold or to have a hand in determinin­g how it turns out. But mainly, it’s simply a lot of fun.

The action is set in a hair salon called Shear Madness. When there’s a murder upstairs, the workers and customers are suspects.

At that point, the house lights come up and questions are solicited from the audience. Someone was seen throwing away some scissors.

Another tried to pass a note. Another took a mysterious phone call.

The clues all add up and eventually point to, well, you decide.

Persephone Theatre’s production is directed by Bob Lohrmann who’s been with the show for decades.

It’s like having Ray Kroc make you a Big Mac at McDonald’s.

After all, this is the longest running non-musical in American theatre history.

Stephen Wade’s set radiates under the lights, a blue and white salon with working sink, high, high walls, arched windows, tile floors and complicate­d mouldings.

When you take your seat, half the cast is already there, doing a funny physical comedy routine while energetic ’50s rock ‘n’ roll pumps out of the sound system. At intermissi­on, all but one of the actors remains on stage. The other is in the lobby fielding questions. These elements add layers of interest and make the play unique.

The performanc­es at Friday’s opening were delightful across the board, starting with Robbie Towns as the flamboyant hair dresser Tony. He’s so likeable and so out-there as to be

irresistib­le. It’s hard to imagine Tony as a suspect, but you do wonder about Eddie Lawrence, played with an edge by Gordon Gammie.

It’s great fun seeing him sneering at audience members who dare to question his motives.

Key parts of the experience are the local references inserted into each day’s performanc­e. Since it’s set in Saskatoon, you got a Sailor Dan reference, and one about the Bonanza safe which made the news only the day before.

Another, by Sharmaine Ryan McCumber as Barbara Karwacki had the audience in stitches.

At one point it came out that she’s from Asquith and people kind of laughed at that. In retort, she singled someone out and said “Who are you, the Queen of Delisle?”

OK so maybe you had to be there.

Jaron Francis, Kevin Sepaul and Shelley Thompson round out a talented, nicely matched cast.

Despite the thin plot, much is required of the actors because the direction of the play can change instantly depending on what the audience picks up on. The actors were more than up to the task and, better yet, looked like they were having fun doing it. A couple of moments when they cracked themselves up and tried to hold it in were gold.

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