Joshua Morgan, the other artistic director, is the host, playing piano and interviewing guests. So it’s a variety show, created by Sutow and Morgan, starring Morgan, directed by Sutow. Only with a twist, because the puckish, upbeat Morgan is such a wild card.
He explains the time he and Sutow were performing their own mature-themes comic cabaret, “Assembly Required: How to Write, Produce and Stage a Musical – The Musical!” at the Capital Fringe Festival. They billed it with cautionary warnings, yet at one performance a family showed up with two kids.
Morgan and Sutow glanced at each other, thinking quickly about what to do.
“My eyes were totally like, ‘Get ready for it!’” Morgan cackles.
A moment later, Morgan was in one of the kids’ laps.
“That’s a perfect example,” he says, “of, like . . .”
“What?” the bemused Sutow cuts in, grinning coolly at his brazen collaborator. “Us responding differently to situations?”
Sutow will turn 27 by summer’s end; Morgan declines to reveal his age. “As long as I keep playing 17-year-olds, that’s all that really matters,” he jokes. (Morgan played a troubled teen in Woolly Mammoth’s hit “A Bright New Boise” two years ago.) Yet young as they are to have gained such a firm foothold in Washington’s busy theater scene — No Rules is concluding its first season of a three-year residency deal at Arlington’s Signature Theatre, where the co-conspirators are talking together in a rehearsal room — Sutow and Morgan have been making theater together for a surprisingly long time.
They met in 2005 as freshmen at the University of North Carolina’s School of the Arts, and at first they tried writing musicals together. They abandoned that, but pursued just about everything else in a program that didn’t box them into narrow tracks as actors, directors or writers.
They are hyphenates: Morgan decides that Sutow is an actor-writer-producer. He identifies himself as an actor-writer-teacher.
“We trained as actors,” says Sutow, who played the insensitive Guy in Neil LaBute’s “Some Girl(s),” No Rules’ formal D.C. debut in 2009. “But Joshua was always directing, and I was always writing. We knew we didn’t have to compartmentalize.”
Even though the academic program kept them busy, Morgan and Sutow created outside work, including a production of the campy rock musical “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” On the advice of Colin Hovde, now the artistic director of Theatre Alliance (and a fellow grad of the same school, and currently Sutow’s housemate), they brought the show to Washington at the tiny Warehouse Theatre downtown, and it was a hit.
What they’ve done since is unorthodox: No Rules is a two-city troupe. Their seasons are split between D.C. and Winston-Salem, N.C., where No Rules performs in the 300-seat Hanesbrands Theatre, part of the three-year-old Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts.