Sunday, November 27, 2005
Friday, November 25, 2005
Thursday, November 24, 2005
Warning to those suffering from vertigo: Do not ride Shear Madness. The largely improvisational comedy, now at Geva, runs at a frenzied pace, thrusting the audience through an enervating and hilarious trip.
The evolution of the play began in Rochester in 1976 when Geva put on a play called Who Dunnit?. That production featured Bruce Jordan, the director of Geva's current incarnation. Excited by the show but left wishing for a brighter adaptation, Jordan secured the rights and, with his partner Marilyn Abrams, created just that.
This version of the show takes place inside a posh hair salon on the corner of Park and Oxford. The set is realistic down to a working washbasin and (keep your eyes peeled!) a City Newspaper stand. With the Rochester skyline as backdrop, the swirling psychedelic pastels of the salon's wall are disorienting which, I suspect, is intentional.
As the audience filters into the theater, the characters are already on stage creating the business of a salon. Madonna's "Material Girl" and "Help Me Rhonda" by the Beach Boys plays. Hair is washed to the beat and nails are wildly filed with the rhythm.
The cast shines, thinking on their feet and reacting with honed comic instincts. Barbara Bradshaw, as Mrs. Shubert, is everything one could hope for in a snooty socialite. Blinding the audience when it caught the light, Mrs. Shubert's rock of an engagement ring was a physical reminder of her superiority. Geva Improv captain Tim Goodwin, costumed in geek worthy button down and off kilter bow tie, turns in a delightful performance as the Barney Fife to actor Larry Bull's Andy Griffith.
Tony Whitcomb, the flamboyant proprietor, played with flair by Tom Wahl, and his second chair Barbara Demarco (Margot Moreland) are constantly annoyed by the blaring concerto of famous pianist --- and upstairs neighbor --- Isabelle Czerny. When police burst in to reveal that Czerny has been murdered with a pair of styling shears, it turns out that Tony, Barbara, and supposed walk-in Eddie Lawrence (Daren Kelly) all had motives. RPD officers Rossetti (Bull) and Thomas (Goodwin) have to solve the case.
But to solve it, they need the audience. Audience members help the detectives reconstruct events, locate clues, and determine suspects. During intermission, Detective Rossetti circles the lobby, taking questions and questioning the audience in return. People crowded around him excitedly, raising their hands to offer witness. One woman pointed at me --- standing behind the detective and taking notes like a good little theater reviewer --- and whispered to her husband, "She must be really interested in solving the crime."
Director Jordan goes for the laugh at every turn, whether it be a turn of phrase, punch line, irony, or physical. However, the actors zing the audience so quickly that the following lines are drowned in laughter.
The show is peppered with references only Rochesterians could appreciate, from Vinny and Angelo to Nick Tahou. "If you don't like the weather in Rochester, wait a minute!" says Tony. And, believe it or not, this isn't the worst of the worst. A reference to Detective Rossetti, after a psychic moment, having ESPN? It's true.
No matter how improbable the situation, hold on and enjoy the ride. Who done it? You'll just have to vote and find out.
Shear Madness Tuesdays through Sundays through December 31 Geva Theatre Center, 75 Woodbury Boulevard $13.50 to $48.50 232-GEVA, www.gevatheatre.org
--- Erin Morrison-Fortunato
Monday, November 21, 2005
(November 21, 2005) — Death is a lively business at the Shear Madness Hairstyle Salon on Park Avenue. Someone killed renowned concert pianist Isabel Czerny, who lived in the apartment above the salon. News 8 reports that Rochester police are interrogating the suspects — after issuing them a "two-word" warning: "Nobody's going anywhere."
Welcome to Shear Madness, a crowd-pleasing whodunit that opened at Geva on Saturday night. Be advised to take your seats early because the fun begins before the first lines are ever spoken.
In a garishly appointed salon with Technicolor hues of orange, yellow, pink and purple (kudos to Gary Jacobs, scenic design), flamboyant, gay hairdresser/owner Tony Whitcomb (Tom Wahl) is lip-syncing to music while washing a customer's hair. Shop assistant Barbara DeMarco (Margot Moreland), decked out in a blue dress and cherry red boots, is busy chewing gum and painting her nails.
Customers enter the salon: Eddie Lawrence (Daren Kelly), a Monroe Avenue antiques dealer with a history of shady dealings, and Mrs. Shubert (Barbara Bradshaw), a Bermuda-bound wealthy socialite who might be having an affair.
We soon learn Isabel died while the foursome were in the shop. Who killed her? Was it Tony, who hated the sound of her music? Was it Eddie, who had an appointment with her later that day? Was it Barbara, who was supposedly having a "Lebanese" affair with Isabel? Or Mrs. Shubert?
Rochester policemen Nick Rossetti (Larry Bull) and Mikey Thomas (Tim Goodwin) must solve the crime — and they need the audience's help. You have the right to ask questions and are not to remain silent.
The latter would be nearly impossible because Shear Madness is riotously funny, filled with Mel Brooks-like groaner lines that are so dumb you hate yourself for liking it. Plus, there's a barrage of hilarious local references.
Wahl's role is so extreme that he manages to run circles around the other cast members. And he does a mean Carol Channing impersonation.
Moreland's contributions are also significant, and her "come-on" ad-libs are just the spark the show needs. There are also rich performances by Kelly, who transforms from respectability to a sharp-mouthed con artist, and Bradshaw as the society-type matron who enjoys more than a drink or two at lunch.
Police officers Bull and Goodwin can be categorized as "Dumb and Dumber" and their improvised "grilling" procedures are a hoot to watch.
Freelancer Marcia Morphy writes about theater.
Friday, November 11, 2005
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Purveying an utterly charming sound that borrows from folk, pop, Western swing, and early vocal jazz, Los Angeles' fancifully named Ditty Bops feature the tightly woven harmonies of Amanda Barrett (who also handles mandolin and dulcimer duties) and Abby DeWald (who also plays guitar). Though Barrett and DeWald met in New York City in the late '90s, they didn't begin playing music until they moved back to California. Barrett spent her childhood in Topanga and learned to play fretted dulcimer when she was six, then moved to Europe to model as a teen before moving to New York in her early twenties. DeWald, meanwhile, grew up in northern California and took piano lessons as a child; growing up in a house where only classical was played, she nevertheless developed a fascination with ragtime music and electric blues. A stint in a band that played '20s covers in period costumes inspired the duo to make the Ditty Bops just as theatrical, if not as strictly traditional: puppet shows, illustrations, and fancy dresses and wigs give their live shows a hint of cabaret. The Ditty Bops were discovered by Warner Bros. at one of their shows in the L.A. area; after signing to the label, they released their self-titled, Mitchell Froom-produced debut album. Late that year, the group toured the U.S. with the equally theatrical Dresden Dolls and Count Zero.
you. should smell. my. hair. i had a taste of the fancy life today as i went to metro salon on geva theatre center’s dollar to get my hair cut for shear madness. having been voted with accolades in city’s best of
i walked in and was immediately offered coffee. i stammered at the thought but hey -- why not act the part, right? it’s the first time i’ve had coffee – damn good coffee, too – given to me on a saucer in a fine-looking cup. stefania washed my hair while we waited for amanda doherty (geva’s costume designer) to park the car. she showed up as i sat up from the wash with a towel over my head and the uncontrollable urge to smile at all the fuss made over a hair cut.
after a discussion on where my final hair style should rest (somewhere between amanda's desire to have it long enough for tom wahl to play with while "styling" my hair in the play and bruce jordan's wish that it be really, really short with a "princeton part") stefania erased a year’s worth of growth in a few precise swipes of her shears, giving me the look that supposedly will make me more “mikey thomas”-like. nice time. she even took her scissors to my eyebrows, after which I shook her hand; how many times do you get your eyebrows cut? afterwards she put stuff in my hair – she sweetly condemned the wegmans brand hair gel i admitted to using and put…well, I don’t know what it was she put in my hair but it was a mosh of a few different jars topped with some serious hair spray. smells fantastic. and I look pretty smart.