Theater News

Quick Wit: Hugh Hysell

Robert Kent talks with the producer-director about superheroes and Super Eros

Paul Cosentino and Jeff Bond in Super Eros
Paul Cosentino and Jeff Bond
in Super Eros

Holding out for a hero? Check out this year’s New York International Fringe Festival (August 16-27). In a slate filled with angry little people, chainsaw boys, disco pigs, tiny ninjas, angry jellow bubbles, and a “teenage” dominatrix, you’ll also find a mild-mannered gay superhero. John Philpit’s Super Eros, produced and directed by Hugh Hysell, tells the tale of a Herculean homosexual who must choose between coming out and selling out. Super Eros represents Hysell’s third consecutive year of participation in FringeNYC. Presented by his Wild at Last Theatre Company, Hysell’s previous Fringe productions were the audience favorites All Male Importance of Being Earnest and All Male Lives of Y2-Gay. I recently met with Hysell to discuss Super Eros.

You’re not “All Male” this year?

I guess that means we won’t be first in the alphabetical listings.

What attracts you to Fringe? Money, glamour, proximity to East Village bars?

The challenge. It’s demanding to create a show that can be set up in seven minutes and still resemble a well-produced production rather than a reading in a scene class.

Changing sets faster than a speeding bullet…

It helps to have a superhero in the house!

Tell me about Super Eros.

It’s about a gay superhero, the Caped Cardinal (played by Jeff Bond), who must decide between coming out or staying in the closet. If he comes out, he loses product endorsements and won’t get his own action figure or comic book. If he stays in the closet, he loses his boyfriend (Paul Cosentino), who’s a gay activist.

What’s a hunk in a red tights to do?

We answer that question in the show. Super Eros is based in reality. We’re not set in a comic book world. Actually, we’re set in a gay bar called The Big Package…

The Big Package?

…and also in a hospital, a beach, and an agent’s office with windows that men fly out of.

Men fly out of my windows all the time! Is Fringe ready for a gay superhero?

As ready as they’ll ever be! This work is about having the strength to come out. Super Eros is aimed at closeted celebrities who have no idea of their power to change the world, and is dedicated to all queers who have fought for our right to speak out.

Did you ever know that you’re my hero?

Did you ever know that I’m a SuperFriend?

A SuperFriend?

“SuperFriends” is a buddy program sponsored by Northern Lights Alternatives ( The organization helps children and their families who are infected or affected with HIV/AIDS. Each week, I volunteer to be a “superfriend” to a 12-year-old boy who’s HIV+. It’s a very rewarding experience. I took him to see X-Men.

Are you taking him to see Super Eros?

No. Super Eros is not for kids. It’s filled with titillation and sex!

Who’s your favorite superhero?

I thought Aqua Man was a hunk! I watched The Incredible Hulk, but he didn’t turn me on.

It’s not easy being green…

Aqua Man is blond. Blonds are my downfall.

Everyone has a weakness. By the way, what are the Caped Cardinal’s powers?

He has super-strength. He can fly. He’s bulletproof. And he can see through clothing.

See through clothing?

He uses that power to see other men’s underwear.

Did you have Superman underwear as a kid?

No. But I did try to fly.

Like Superman?

Like Mary Poppins!

No comment.

I put on roller skates, grabbed an umbrella, and rolled off the front porch.

Did you fly?

I fell and chipped my front tooth.

Julie Andrews made it look so easy. You’ll have better luck with Super Eros!