Max Crumm (Photo: Jeremy Daniel)
By Ryan Leeds
Although he might be in the new Off-Broadway show Hot Mess, which opened last night at Midtown’s Jerry Orbach Theater at the Theater Center, Max Crumm is far from one. The focused and busy star of Broadway’s 2007 Grease revival and Disaster! returns to the theatre where he played Matt in The Fantasticks.
Dan Rothenberg and Colleen Crabtree wrote the romantic comedy about Max (Max Crumm) and Elanor (Lucy DeVito), two neurotics destined for one another in spite of one another’s idiosyncrasies and secrets. Paul Molnar adds salty sarcasm to the mix in this three-person romp that challenges the notions of dating and sexuality.
The Broadway Blog recently chatted with the laid back, openly gay actor about the show, his secret to quality relationships, and a run-in with a blush brush that backfired.
BB: How did you become involved with Hot Mess?
MC: I was doing a show in Ohio end of summer/early fall and I got an email from my agent who said that there was interest in me for the show. I read the script and was absolutely interested. The very next day, I read on tape with casting and our director, Jonathan Silverstein. The day after that, I was cast! It was really awesome getting cast from a Skype session! Jonathan and I really vibed and I had a good feeling about it, so it was a really good moment.
BB: What is Max Crumm’s definition of a “hot mess”?
MC: Oh gosh… let’s see… I would say someone who always shows up late, hungry, and has to poop. Someone who is always willing and down for whatever, but never prepared. It’s all in context, but I think the true definition is somebody who wants to be something so bad but literally just can’t make it happen even though they’re doing their best.
BB: The show’s marketing and synopsis emphasize that your character, Max (a bisexual) as someone who is hiding secrets and the “messy” one, but collectively, you and Elanor are both hot messes, right?
MC: Absolutely. In different ways. Max is ultimately a people pleaser and bases his decisions on what other people are going to think and how they will react. He doesn’t really have the confidence to be his true self. There is a level of self-dishonesty that creates this mess in him.
Elanor is someone whose heart is in the right place, but who can never say the right thing.
BB: Did you find any similarities between the character of Max and yourself?
MC: There are some. I came out really late in life and I can relate to the level of feeling nervous about what people would say and think.
BB: What do you think is the secret ingredient to successful relationships?
MC: Taking each other’s bids. Arguments and disagreements will come up no matter what, but I think that it’s really important to always extend an olive branch to one another. That’s what I think… and a good sex life!
BB: How have people responded to the show?
MC: It’s been overwhelmingly positive. People are having a great time and laughing throughout. Even people who come in not knowing what the show is about end up loving it. That’s all you can ask for with a fun three-hander like this. The audiences are also invested in our characters and our relationships. Ultimately, if you care about these people—and the audience does—it makes it even more special and funny.
BB: What’s been your biggest “hot mess” moment in life?
MC: Hmmm… let’s see. I’m gonna go quiet for about 30 seconds but I’m thinking.
Okay! This is pretty funny. In middle school, there was a new kid who had really rosy cheeks. I thought it was really cool and I wanted to be just like him so I went into my sister’s blush and put rosy cheeks on myself. I went to school thinking I looked exactly like the new kid. I went through first period. People were looking at me I thought ‘Yes! This is working! I look sexy!’ Then I went to music class and my choir teacher said, “What the hell?!? Why do you have blush on?” And I ran home and washed my face. I thought I looked cute and wind chilled. I didn’t even realize that I looked like an idiot.
BB: That’s hilarious. It was in the same vein as that scene from The First Wives Club when Goldie Hawn gets her lips done.
MC: Yes! I think the messiness of it is that I went through half the day thinking I looked excellent.
BB: Well, if that new kid could see you now! And, you are actually putting blush on each night so it kind of came full circle for you.
MC: It’s true! It did! It was good preparation.
Jerry Orbach Theater at the Theater Center
1627 Broadway, NYC
Through February 25
Ryan Leeds is a freelance theater journalist who lives in Manhattan. He is the Chief Theater Critic for Manhattan Digest and a frequent contributor to Dramatics Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @Ry_Runner or Facebook.