Every murder-mystery play leads its audiences through a process (simple or convoluted) of tracking down who the evil villain is. But in the case of comedic whodunit Shear Madness, called the longest-running play in the United States right now and brought back to Houston by Stages Repertory Theatre, the audience is far more involved than most.
“They get to vote on who committed the murder,” says co-director Mitchell Greco. Which means the script, with any number of alternate endings, is huge. “It changes every night. Depending on who the audience votes for, that's how it's played,” says co-director Josh Morrison.
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The basic plot involves the landlady of a hair salon who lives above the shop and is found dead halfway through the first act. What follows is more like Clue than Agatha Christie, Morrison says.
Set in the here and now of Houston, Texas, with all sorts of topical references, the play requires actors who are quick on their feet, Greco says. They'll engage with the audience and be on the ready if someone becomes too enthusiastic about being part of the action.
Even the intermission is interactive, with one of the actors going out to the lobby during that time to further engage with the audience.
Performances are scheduled for July 13 through August 21 at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays at 3201 Allen Parkway. For information, call 713-527-0123 or visit stagestheatre.com. $21-$52.