“Shear Madness” – Phoenix Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ November 3, 2014


Hormel Blackbox Theatre, Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

Phoenix Theatre’s “Shear Madness” should have been a madcap, zany delight but weak casting and laggardly pacing, make the show a draggy bore that never comically delights audiences.

“Shear Madness” has amused often inebriated audiences at Washington D. C.’s Kennedy Center for 35 years and it has had other successful runs throughout the country.  It’s a crazy spoof set in a beauty shop where the six characters should create mayhem and spark wild malarkey.  But to entertain, the cast must zing out the silly one-liners while playing the stupid situations with straight faces and earnest sincerity.

In Robert Kolby Harper’s lackluster staging a local cast fails to bring the show’s frenzied humor to life and they never achieve the split-second comic timing necessary to make the inane story delightfully wacky.  Many of the mildly amusing moments are telescoped so far in advance that when the jokes hit, they die.  A capacity opening night audience laughed half heartedly but never seemed to genuinely enjoy the on stage inanity.

There’s nothing amusing about the straight-laced set, the mundane costumes, or the uncreative lighting that could have added to the stage malarkey and might have stimulated the actors to add a touch of spice to the proceedings.

The complicated murder-mystery plot drags.  As plot details pour out boringly, the audience just squirms.  Set in Tony Whitcomb’s beauty shop, we meet the shop regulars who represent stereotypical types.  Barbara DeMarco assists Tony but adds nothing to the shenanigans.  Stodgy Mrs. Shubert, a longtime client, is really a weird pistol.  Businessman Eddie Lawrence just wants to keep his hair neat, while police investigators Nick Rossetti and Mikey Thomas try to make sense of the events while actually confusing things even more.  The killer is identified but it’s not really a surprise so there’s not much to entrance an audience for two dry hours of stupidity.

None of the cast soars comically.  Pasha Yamotahari trolls around as Tony but never transforms into the bizarre weirdo the character must become.  Elizabeth Brownlee as his assistant, Barbara, uses an annoyingly affected accent but never makes anything she does amusing.  Mathew Zimmerer doesn’t turn Eddie into the off-center character that initially appears normal so his performance falls flat.  Gene Ganssle and Mark Jacobson make the police detectives’ uninteresting stereotypes and Patti Davis Suarez delivers the best performance as Mrs. Shubert but that’s not saying much in this mediocre company.

“Shear Madness” should have delighted audiences; instead it bores them because the malarkey is never amusing.  It continues through November 23.  What a disappointment.  For tickets, call the Phoenix Theatre box office at 602-254-2151 or order online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: D