Comedic whodunit is just ‘Shear Madness’ at Kennedy Center

The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Credit: Scott Ableman, via Flickr Creative Commons

By Karen Chan

Murder is sometimes mysterious, horrible and violent. But the play “Shear Madness” at Washington’s performing arts center, the Kennedy Center, puts a comedic spin on the crime.

“Shear Madness”, on the stage since 1963, is one of the longest running nonmusical plays in the history of American theater. Although “Shear Madness” is an old play, the production doesn’t feel old at all. On the day we attended (October 30), we heard current jokes about the hurricane and the upcoming election. Not only has the dialogue changed with the times, even the plot didn’t lose its timeliness.

“Shear Madness”, a comedy about a murder, is the name of a hair salon where the story takes place. However, the jokes are very American, and we found some to be difficult to understand. But audience participation was important in keeping the play interesting. People in the audience need to watch the play carefully to spot clues, question the suspects in the salon and try to find out who the murderer is by interacting with the actors on the stage. The most interesting thing is that the murderer is never the same character, it depends the audience’s vote each night.

Even though we did not understand everything the actors said, it was a nice experience for us to feel the atmosphere of a traditional play. “Shear Madness” has been performed more than 12,000 times, and I hope the show will go on for thousands of more performances.

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