Stage Door: Blue Man, Shear Madness

05/25/2011 12:30 pm ET

For three guys who don't talk, they have a lot to say.

Correction: three blue men. Blue Man Group is a theatrical phenomenon, and if you're in Boston, it's a must-see stop. Playing at the Charles Playhouse, 74 Warrenton Street, Blue Man brilliantly combines music, physical comedy, visual humor and social commentary. The result is an explosive, often interactive production. Describing the show is like explaining why Buster Keaton is funny. Both employ physical antics and a deadpan expression that neatly turns chaos into art.

Garbed in black jumpsuits and painted in shiny cobalt blue from head to neck, three men pound on drums, engage in crazy antics and deftly use a multimedia display to send up everything from rock music to modern art. The pace is frenetic, the action is nonstop. Never has sight, sound and motion been used to such comic effect. Even better -- it is fantastic family entertainment. My nephew, Eli, calls it "the best show I've ever seen." Audiences agree.

Though the blue men don't speak, their eyes and manic energy convey all. Founded by Phil Stanton, Chris Wink and Matt Goldman in 1988, Blue Man Group won an Obie Award and a Lucille Lortel Award three years later. The nearly two-hour show, performed without intermission, is a thrilling experience.

Boston, which boasts its own theater district, has an array of offerings -- and the variety -- from classics to experimental theater to Broadway shows -- will satisfy the most discerning theatergoer. Given the city's rich academic environs, there are many reputable college shows, too. To make that recession-era dollar stretch, check out ArtsBoston's half-price tickets at Faneuil Hall. Like TKTS in New York, its offerings are large -- and at vastly reduced rates.

The Charles Playhouse, the oldest theater in the district, also houses Shear Madness, a zany whodunit that's been voted Boston's best comedy for several years running. Now in its 27th year, SM is in the Guiness Book of World Records as the longest-running play in the U.S. By happy coincidence, it's housed in the same theater as Blue Man Group, which is booked upstairs. Shear Madness performs in the 199-seat cabaret-style downstairs -- the ultimate double bill.

If You Go

Dinner pre- or post-theater is a special delight at Chart House, 60 Long Wharf. Located in the historic John Hancock Counting House, the restaurant is famous for its seafood. Be it crab-crusted sea bass or steamed Maine lobster, patrons get the best of New England's seafood tradition. Don't miss its award-winning clam chowder or hot chocolate lava cake, which requires 30 minutes to prepare. The colonial enclave is intimate and inviting, and the service impeccable. Plus, it's a short ride on the T, the city's subway, to the theater. If you want a restaurant in the Theater District, consider the city's second-oldest restaurant -- Jacob Wirth, 31-37 Stuart Street. Since 1868, this Old World German-style establishment has drawn Harvard students, tourists and Bostonians alike. Its stalwarts -- wiener schnitzel and sauerbraten -- are superb, as are the homemade soft-baked pretzels, washed down with a choice of 33 draft beers, both American and European -- from Spaten Optimator to Harpoon. A "Best of Boston" winner and local legend, Jacob Wirth's mahogany tables and historic photos retain its original flavor. The exterior looks much as it did in the 19th century. The sawdust may have disappeared from the wood floor, but a friendly welcome and first-rate fare remain.