For Broadway’s Adam Dannheisser, “The Cottage” Industry Rocks

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Adam DannheisserWell, darlings, who wouldn’t be inspired by No√´l Coward? World-class tyrants, genocidal maniacs, sexually repressed homophobes and hobbit-like creatures living under very heavy rocks, probably sedimentary rocks, who actually like living under rocks, and that’s probably about it, so far as we can tell. He was an actor, a playwright, a director, a droll stage master who put the viv back in bon vivant and, frankly, a consistent surprise — a man who, just at the very moment when it may seem to the unsophisticated biographer that it was all merely about martinis, quick quips and cigarette tips, Coward proved his mettle during World War II, in defense of his beloved British Isles. That his beloved British Isles proceeded to trap him in a tetchy tussle over taxes shouldn’t detract from the fact that Coward was anything but a coward. He inspired millions during his lifetime and continues to do so today.

And so it is indeed that playwright Sandy Rustin has been inspired to write The Cottage, an original farce mounted by the Astoria Performing Arts Center (at the Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, 30-44 Crescent St., Astoria, Queens, That Other Borough) through Nov. 23.

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And so it is, too, that the farce’s director is Adam Dannheisser, whom Broadway-philes will recognize as one of the performers in Rock of Ages — he’s been a member of the cast since the show opened in 2009. And he’s Rock of Ages‘ resident director, too. OK now, let’s put this together: Rock of Ages…a play inspired by No√´l Coward, Rock of Ages…a play inspired by No√´l Coward. Are you sensing cognitive dissonance?

You shouldn’t. And do you know what convinced us? Not just Dannheisser’s mirth-making moment at around 2:40 in this promotional video for The Cottage (and whole thing is fun and worth watching), but the wow-inducing stuffed weasel that materializes around 5:00. We staggered backward, folks. Like, seriously. Like, we almost fell, back first, into the orchestra pit of our comedic imagination. For a stuffed weasel is funny — and farcical. A stuffed weasel, dare we say it, rocks:

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In case you’re wondering or otherwise assuming — no, we’re not being snarky about the stuffed weasel thing. We watched the video and it’s very nice and the performers seem really fun but then — oh, then, oh, then, oh then — a stuffed weasel is simply inherently funny.

And now, a little more about the play. The Cottage is laid in 1923 in the English countryside. It’s a tale of love, of sex, of betrayal — all things near and dear to queer little Sylvia Van Kipness, and we mean queer the way Coward meant queer, not that other queer queer. You see, Van Kipness is in the midst of a love affair with a man who is not, of course, her husband, and in a moment of unrepentant ribaldry, she tests their trust by revealing her tryst to her husband, sure, but also her lover’s wife.

Sylvia, in other words, has balls.

This is the part of the post where we here at the ever-industrious CFR, always wanting to be thorough and meticulous journalists, would dig up every last conceivable ounce of Dannheisser’s substantial biography and tell you all about all the shows he’s been in and who his great-great grandparents were and whether it’s boxers, briefs or something that leaves him in, uh, commando of the situation. Instead, and courtesy of the peeps at Broadway.com (who have magnanimously agreed to pay the CFR an unprecedented zilch for each poor soul who clicks “play”), we think this video pretty much tells you why we wanted to ask Dannheisser some of our 5 Questions:

Remember: for tickets to The Cottage, click here.

And now, five questions Adam Dannheisser has never been asked:

1) What’s the most perceptive question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
“How long is the show?”

2) What’s the most idiotic question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
“How do you memorize all those lines?”

3) What’s the weirdest question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
“Do you wear your own underwear on stage?”

Jason Loughlin and Amy Rutberg in Sandy Rustin's "The Cottage," directed by Adam Dannheisser. Photo credit: Matt Yeager.
Face the farce: Jason Loughlin and Amy Rutberg in Sandy Rustin’s The Cottage. Photo credit: Matt Yeager.

4) How does Sandy Rustin homage Noel Coward? How does she make herself distinct? How do you balance Coward and Rustin?
I think Sandy would say that she wrote this play not so much as an homage to Coward but more of an experiment in genre. I do think that, like Coward, Sandy was interested in holding up a mirror to the time period without commenting on it, but there is a definite contemporary line of questioning that is uniquely hers. As a director, my goal was to stay true to the traditional style while embracing Sandy’s own sensibility.

5) One school of thought says American actors, schooled and steeped in realism and Method, can’t play farce convincingly. In casting The Cottage, what qualities did the actors need to farce it out of the park?
If I were to try to articulate the most resonant quality when casting this farce, it would be a responsible fearlessness.

Bonus question:

6) In your years with Rock of Ages, what one audience was the most seriously over-the-top? What happened? How did you handle it? (We’re hoping for some Maury Povich-style dish here.)
Well, let’s put it this way: you know you’ve made it when famous porn stars throw their underthings at you on stage. Jenna Jameson, wherever you are, your bra still hangs on our wall and in our hearts.