Interview: Timothy J. Cox at the Pioneer Playhouse in Run For Your Wife
Hannah Marie Ellison — Published: Jul 25, 2010
The 33 year old actor has enjoyed a busy summer, with his appearances in the soon to be released films The Watchers, Argyle and The Beach Comber.
But the bulk of his time has been spent preparing for his next theatrical project, a revival of the hilarious farce from British playwright Ray Cooney, Run For Your Wife, which starts rehearsals this coming week at the legendary outdoor summer theatre, the Pioneer Playhouse in Danville, Kentucky. The comedy is going to be directed by Playhouse alum Lawrence Lesher, a frequent collaborator and close friend of the actor.
In the production, Cox plays John Smith, an average guy with an average name and looks, who works in London as a taxi driver and is happily married to two beautiful women (Synge Maher, a Pioneer Playhouse veteran in her own right and Emily King) in two different homes. Apparently this works out well enough for him until he is bopped on the head and, in a dazed state, gives one address to the police and the other to the hospital. Soon, police officers are ringing the doorbells at each home to investigate the inconsistency. John and Stanley Gardner (to be played by Chris Kateff, who appeared with Cox in a splendid production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream this past winter at The Secret Theatre in Long Island City), his cheerfully unemployed and flippant neighbor at household No. 1, then begin to pile on the lies.
That’s when things get really interesting. Each lie is more outrageous than the one before, all in an effort to try to prevent the police and his wives from knowing he's a bigamist. The result is a play that makes misunderstanding hilarious.
This marks the actor's second visit to the Pioneer Playhouse, the last of a dying breed of the old summer stock theatres, which has enjoyed a rich, six decade tenure at its site in Danville's Boyle County. Alumnus from their long roster of actors include John Travolta, Lee Majors and the late Jim Varney, who was considered one of the finest actors in the theatre's history.
Cox appeared for the first time at the Playhouse in the summer of 2007, appearing in a wide variety of roles: the title character in the adorable Babe the Sheep Pig, a pompous doctor in The Servant of Two Masters (directed by Lesher), a not-so suave Castilian Spaniard in the female version of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple (also directed by Lesher) and, finally, as an irascible old coot in Catherine Bush's original comedy A Jarful Of Fireflies, which took a fictionalized look at the real life Danville in the 1950's as it awaited the arrival of film stars Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift, Eva Marie Saint, Lee Marvin and the crew for the film Raintree County, which was filmed in Danville at that time. Cox's work was praised by critics and audiences alike, including a rather amusing review of his work in Babe the Sheep Pig by the Danville Advocate Messenger, where he was described as "delightfully porcine".
The actor is delighted to return to the Pioneer Playhouse again and took a few minutes, in the days before departing for Danville, to sit and talk with BlogCritics about his return and Run For Your Wife:
BlogCritics: What's bringing you back to the Pioneer Playhouse?
Timothy J. Cox: I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent at the theatre in the summer of 2007, so I was always looking for an excuse to go back and was thrilled when Holly Henson (Artistic Director of the Pioneer Playhouse) invited me back, along with director Lawrence Lesher, Matthew Harris and Synge Maher (all fellow veterans of the Playhouse and close friends), as well as first timers to the Playhouse in Emily King and Chris Kateff. There’s the joy of having the chance to work with dear friends, all extraordinarily gifted actors. Plus, there’s something very warm and welcoming about the people in Danville. They really get into the shows and are engaged in what’s taking place on the stage. That kind of enthusiasm energizes you as an actor. The history that the theatre has made over the years impresses the heck out of me as well. Six decades? Not many theatres can lay claim to that kind of longevity.
BlogCritics: Why Run For Your Wife?
Timothy J. Cox: Larry (Lesher) had always wanted to do the play. He pitched it to both Holly and her mother Charlotte, who makes all of the final decisions as far as productions are concerned. They said yes and here we are.
BlogCritics: You and Mr. Lesher have collaborated on a number projects:
Timothy J. Cox: We have indeed. We may even be collaborating again on another production in the fall. We click very well together, I think. He puts a lot of trust in his actors, let's you play around and have fun. I have such respect for him and admire the way he's able to craft comic moments. Best of all, he becomes your biggest fan in rehearsals, is always encouraging and supportive, which is what an actor needs from a director. As for the play itself, well it's just drop dead hilarious from start to finish. So wild and off the wall. I’ll read scenes on the subway here and I’ll start to chuckle out loud. Matt (Harris), who’s going to great as this flamboyant neighbor who pops in and out of the show, and I got together recently and we couldn't contain our excitement over this opportunity to come back and do this wonderful play. I’m delighted and thankful to the folks at the Pioneer Playhouse that the production is going to happen.
BlogCritics: The show was written and set during the 1980’s, but your production is going in a different route.
Timothy J. Cox: Yes, Larry’s setting the show in the 1960’s, so that should be a lot of fun, although these folks are hardly the types you’d picture popping up during the “Swinging 60’s”, so it will be interesting.
BlogCritics: Talk about the character of John Smith.
Timothy J. Cox: I love John. He’s a goof. with all of these off the wall lies that he and Stanley come up with to keep this ruse going. He’s a lovable idiot. I think it makes him likable and even a little sympathetic, rather than just a two-timing heel. We’ll see what an audience thinks.
BlogCritics: You start rehearsals on July 28th and the show opens on August 10th. That’s not a lot of time to prepare.
Timothy J. Cox: Actually, it’s plenty of time. The way the Pioneer Playhouse works is this. You get up, have a little breakfast and then go off to rehearsal for about three hours. Then you have a little lunch and then go back and rehearse some more. Our show will likely be rehearsing in the evenings as well, so we’ll certainly be accomplishing quite a bit from that standpoint. On top of the rehearsals, the cast will also be building the set, so we will have plenty of time, it’s important that you stay on your toes and be prepared at all times as far as the “actor” part of you is concerned, but overall, everything should come together nicely. The actors live on the site where the theatre is located, so us New Yorkers don’t have to worry about subways or long travels. In many ways, it’s a vacation. The best part of course is that we actors get to do what we love every day. Nothing better than that. As far as this cast is concerned, each actor has already done a considerable amount of homework and memorization, so when we arrive on the 27th, we can hit the ground running the next morning. And with British accents, you want to be as prepared as you possibly can be. It’ll be a wonderful process. The process of putting it all together is why I love it. It’s work, but it’s also where the fun is. I look forward to laughing a lot in rehearsals.
BlogCritics: Lastly, how do you think the Danville audience is going to react to a play about a man who commits bigamy?
Timothy J. Cox: Look, this is not a Harold Pinter or Tony Kushner play. The play doesn’t set out to make any broad strokes. Ray Cooney wrote a play with one objective: Make ‘ em laugh and keep ‘ em laughing. That’s what we hope to do.
Run For Your Wife runs at the Pioneer Playhouse in Danville, Kentucky from from August 10th to the 21st.
For information on the show and on the Pioneer Playhouse, please visit their official website: www.pioneerplayhouse.com
For information on Timothy J. Cox, please visit his official website at www.timothyjcox.com