Walking into CLO Cabaret these days you're bound to marvel at what looks like a genuine hair salon. You'll quickly discover that the water there flows, the sink drains and the hairdryers work. Soon, you'll see shampoo frothing, hair-conditioner squirting and shaving soap foaming. You've just crossed over into the Shear Madness zone.
What takes place in that setting becomes a snappy, funny experience, full of unsophisticated material and shtick played with the right sense of style thanks to director Bob Lohrmann's sure hand that keeps everyone from pushing too hard. Marilyn Abrams and Bruce Jordan's elemental script, adapted to include plenty of Pittsburgh digs and dishes, sets up a premise rife with possibilities for the cast to have fun ad-libbing. Moreover, sitting out there in the house, nursing your drinks, you'll be encouraged to offer comments, opinions and theories about what's really been happening up there on stage while the cast has to deal with whatever you throw at them. Not your cell phone, please.
In the Shear Madness Hair Styling Salon on East Carson Street, Tony Whitcomb and Barbara DeMarco have been servicing clients Nick Rosetti, Mikey Thomas, Eddie Lawrence and Mrs. Schubert when, upstairs, Isabel Czerny starts practicing for a piano recital. Loudly. Tony and Barbara can't stand such interruptions to their need to gab and gossip. But then Isabel is found murdered. And Nick and Mikey turn out to be cops covering the case. Also Eddie and Mrs. Schubert have questionable secrets.
As the accusations and revelations proliferate, so too do plenty of malapropisms and non secretariats, played with infecting oh de joie. Tony, in particular, has a penchant for mincing words, which Neil A. Casey plays with plenty of happy panache, something he's done in productions elsewhere of this widely staged show. The rest of the cast is local, with Tom Schaller standing out as earnest but not-too-bright Nick, while Gregory Johnstone makes Eddie look appropriately smarmy.
As for who actually done it, you need to know that even if Tony pants for anything with pants on, he seems harmless enough. And he's not got all that much to hide; in fact he repeatedly comes out of the closet. What did you expect? A salon without a gay hairdresser is like a Primanti sandwich without French fries. Meanwhile Mrs. Schubert's butler seems suspicious. Oh, he didn't do it, but it looks as if he did something ... with Mrs. Schubert. Then there's the question of Eddie Lawrence's actions. He claims he went upstairs to use the bathroom to brush his teeth. But when he tries to prove it by showing his toothbrush, it turns out he has no dental floss. No flossing? On that count alone, he looks guilty.
You get to finger the murderer. Oh, sorry -- no touching the cast. I mean you get to decide which of them becomes the designated killer. And everybody under the bright lights then has to sweat it out, dealing with your possibly alcohol-influenced choice.
Let yourself go.
Shear Madness continues through Sept. 28. The Cabaret at Theater Square, 655 Penn Ave, Downtown. 412-325-6766 or www.clocabaret.com
- Photo by Matt Polk courtesy of Pittsburgh CLO
- Hair farce: Kristiann Menotiades (left) and Ingrid Sonnichsen in the CLO Cabaret's Shear Madness.