“I play the inventor of the vibrator,” Hugh Dancy announced to us last night at the MCC Theater’s Annual Musical Spectacular Gala at the Hammerstein Ballroom. He’s talking about his role in Hysteria, a romantic comedy due in movie theaters this year that follows Victorian-era men as they try to cure women of their irritability and irrational tears. (It is not connected to 2009’s acclaimed Broadway play In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play), which retold the same history lesson.) “The premise is truthful,” Dancy tell us, “which is that women were being treated for hysteria, which was kind of a fictional malady — and then as a result of that, they invented the, well, electricity came along, and then this massage device, quote unquote, was invented. It wasn’t [a role] that warranted a lot of historical research.“
It didn’t demand any trips to the sex shop, either, Dancy says, though he did come face-to-face with a strange device at a read-through. “It’s the only read-through where I’ve ever received a gift,” he said. “And this one was a tiny vibrating bean. Unfortunately, I was thinking about other things and left it there, and someone immediately stole it.” “A bean?” we ask. “Yeah, I’ll leave it to your imagination,” he tells us. We turn to his wife, Claire Danes. “And how do you feel about this, Claire?” “Been there, done that,” she says.