Off-Broadway, Max Crumm Finds Himself a “Hot Mess”

The character of Max, not the actor named Max, is in a Hot Mess. Photo: Matthew Murphy.

Please meet Max and Eleanor. Or, if you like, Eleanor and Max. They go together like — well, Max and Eleanor, or Eleanor and Max. By that we mean that we know Eleanor is mildly unstable, and that Max is more or less angst-ridden. But they’re soulmates, and as soulmates, they’ve shared everything with one another. As a new play unfurls called Hot Mess, however, it does appear that there’s this one other thing that Max hasn’t shared yet with Eleanor — who has definitely shared a lot about, for example, all her ex-boyfriends.

Please meet Max and Lucy. Or, if you like, Lucy and Max. They go together like — well, a pair of gifted actors appearing in that rarest of species: a straight play (pardon the pun) running Off-Broadway. The Max, in this case, is Max Crumm, whose two Broadway shows and four Off-Broadway roles have established him as a go-to within the musical theater firmament; he first became a household name a decade ago when he appeared on the NBC reality-TV show Grease: You’re the One That I Want! and turned out to be the one that the audience wanted. And the Lucy is DeVito — familiar to TV audiences of Deadbeat and Alpha House, and the daughter of Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman.

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Directed by Jonathan Silverstein, Hot Mess is written by Dan Rothenberg and Colleen Crabtree. The play is in an open run at the Jerry Orbach Theater (1627 Broadway). For tickets, click here.

And now, 5 questions Max Crumm has never been asked:

What’s the most perceptive question anyone has asked you about your work?
Lots of people ask me if I’m actually as comfortable as I seem onstage and the answer is no! I’m pretending to be comfortable!! I’m usually nervous.

What’s the most idiotic question anyone has asked you about your work?
When straight men ask me if it’s fun kissing my lady co-stars.

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Production photo: Jeremy Daniel.

What’s the weirdest question anyone has asked you about your work?
A lady once asked me if I take a poop before a show. The answer is if I have to, yes.

The Hot Mess plot reads like a love story with a twist. Without giving away too much, does the situation between the characters ring true for you? How many men have you known with the kind of secret(s) your character carries?
It does not ring true for me, no. I, myself, am an out gay man. I am not bisexual. I have a couple of friends whom I believe to be bi but would never push them towards coming out with anything that would make them uncomfortable.

Why are American men such a — uh, hot mess — when it comes to sexuality?
I think they may be a hot mess because of toxic masculinity and the need to be seen as dominating. I really feel that this keeps men from forming close and intimate bonds with one another. I wish it wasn’t negative to be seen as feminine or gentle. Human connection is fantastic!

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Bonus question:

Max, name three Shakespeare roles you want to play, ranked by preference. Do you think the NYC theater community is biased — or myopic — when it comes to actors known for musical theater work wanting to do the classics?
I think that the NYC theater community is one of the most inclusive in the arts. It’s mostly producers or casting directors that would not consider musical theater actors for straight plays, if that. I’ve found in my situation that there is less of a stigma than people would think. Maybe that’s just for me, though? I’d love to play Puck in Midsummer and Leontes from Winter’s Tale and Hamlet.