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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre opens its 44th season with Shear Madness, the cleverly interactive mystery/comedy based on a script by Paul Pörtner, and created by Marilyn Abrams and Bruce Jordan. The award-winning play has a remarkable durability. For example, its current run at Boston’s Charles Theatre began in January 1980 – which was during the final year of the presidency of Jimmy Carter! The show’s current run at the Kennedy Center in D.C. started in August of 1987! I believe one of the keys to its continued success, aside from it’s originality, might be that the script is frequently updated with current events and references. B&B’s production contained many referrals to local Indy issues and notables to the extent that there is a mention of yours truly and the blog you are currently reading, which was a pleasant surprise.

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From left: Nathan Robbins, Suzanne Stark, Jeff Stockberger, Daniel Klingler, Michael Shelton and Jenny Reber star in Beef & Boards’ production of “Shear Madness”.

Directed by Eddie Curry, the proceedings take place in Michael Layton’s finely appointed salon set design. The six person cast of characters, include flamboyant salon owner, Tony Whitcomb, played to the hilt by Daniel Klingler; his peppy co-worker Barbara DeMarco, offered with ardor by Jenny Reber; a mysterious salon client – Eddie Lawrence, given a pointed portrayal by Michael Shelton; the wealthy regular customer Mrs. Eleanor Shubert, delightfully snooty as done by Suzanne Stark; and the undercover team of Mikey Thomas and Nick O’Brien,  portrayed by Nathan Robbins and Jeff Stockberger.

The story itself is a rather simple one concerning an aggravating elderly upstairs neighbor who has connections to each of the salon clients and employees. She is murdered and the audience is charged with figuring out which of the six characters is the culprit. A bevy of activity lays out multiple clues, with plenty of red herrings included in the offerings. In a unique arrangement, the entire middle of the show is done with house lights up and direct interaction between crowd members and the cast. Questions are asked and answered, and once it is decided which of the suspects is thought to have done the deed, the play continues to its revealing conclusion and the audience sees if they were correct.

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Tony (Daniel Klingler) explains to Mrs. Shubert (Suzanne Stark), seated, about the problems he’s had with the old lady who lives upstairs while Barbara (Jenny Reber), at right, listens in Beef & Boards’ “Shear Madness”.

The performance I attended was fortunate to have a very engaged and intelligent congregation. They had paid great attention to the many factors each character brought to the story and had plenty of good questions. I do have a feeling that the variety of audiences greatly influences the measure of the play’s fulfillment, but this is a very skilled cast, so I assume they can direct the show toward the most satisfying results.

The script itself, as well as being made contemporary with current and local references, is a quick fire, pun-filled effort, loaded with word-play jokes and one-line rim-shotters. Director Curry has allowed the cast to have a fast and loose feel and the players were not averse to improvisations and perhaps some inside jokes, much to the delight of the packed house crowd. Indeed, the ensemble work was a highlight of the show.

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Nick O’Brien (Jeff Stockberger), right, watches as Tony Whitcomb (Daniel Klingler) fills his hand with shaving cream as he prepares to give Nick a shave in Beef & Boards’ “Shear Madness”.

Bottom-line: This show is certainly a worthwhile entertainment, especially for a group who loves mysteries and loves to laugh. Although I was told this is PG-13 rated, the text slid over to perhaps a PG-18 at times. But there were plenty of good laughs and chuckles and the “current” references were fun to note. As always, the play is preceded by a lot of good food and excellent service from the B&B staff.

Shear Madness continues through January 29th. You can find out more about the schedule and reserve your tickets by calling the Box Office at (317) 872-9664, or by going to the B&B website at http://www.beefandboards.com.

*- Photos by Julie Curry

 

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