INDIANAPOLIS — The season opener for Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre started in 1963 as a serious German play, a title I’m trimming to “Scherenschnitt” which translates roughly into “scissor cuts,” the haircuts performed by a hairdresser.
In the mid-1970s, actors Marilyn Abrams and Bruce Jordan rewrote the play — originally a murder mystery with participation by German audiences — into a comedy whodunit involving a hair salon.
Reworked, “Shear Madness” premiered in Boston, later expanding worldwide to more than 100 productions.
The entertaining, non-musical comedy has landed, again, at Beef & Boards. The whodunit returns after it first appeared at the dinner theatre in 2017. Performances run through Feb. 5.
Reprising their roles from the 2017 show are Daniel Klingler as salon owner Tony Whitcomb; Jenny Reber as hairdresser Barbara DeMarco; Suzanne Stark as socialite Mrs. Eleanor Shubert; Jeff Stockberger as cop Nick Rosetti; and Michael Shelton as mystery man Eddie Lawrence. Joining them is David Buergler as undercover cop Mickey Thomas.
They returnees were all excellent choices five years ago, and it’s still true now.
Like any mystery, there are twists, including an audience participation angle. As it turns out, any of the characters could be the killer of a woman who lives above the salon. The results change nightly based on audience votes.
For this, patrons need to stay alert — that is, they should stay as alert as a before-show buffet dinner allows.
The cast makes a triumphant effort at adding an improvisational factor while the audience shouts out questions trying to uncover the killer. When accused, characters fight back; Barbara Reber supplies the swiftest and seemingly most spontaneous jabs aimed at the audience.
As always, Stockberger as an undercover detective gets to shine with his physical reactions to Daniel Klingler’s flamboyance as the salon owner.
The play’s premise encourages dialogue updates, so there are jokes about the Colts, Greenwood and Massachusetts Avenue. There might be a little much in gay jokes and ripe-for-middle-school puns, but those are offset by topical and improvised punchlines.
But look around as “Shear Madness” unfolds and you’ll see an audience not only chuckling but rapt with solving a crime.