By David Walters
As Noel Coward said, “It is discouraging how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.”
That pretty much sums up the plot of this delightful romp where the lies cancel each other out following in Coward’s drawing-room-comedy-of-manners footsteps (Pinkies up and cheerio!). Sandy Rustin‘s script gives plenty to play with and this wonderful ensemble cast dances with ease through the words, set, and sexual impropriety of this what-is-love comedy hit, playing it to the rafters with and for each other and bringing a laughing audience along for the ride. They are having fun with it and you will as well as everyone discovers that, “One can only know one’s self, when one’s self is free from the restraints other impose.”
You begin with the garden animal sex going on in the detailed hidden objects diorama draping the stage that wets your lips for what’s to follow. At curtain, the painted cottage scene then rises to reveal an enviously splendid set by Paul Tate dePoo III that is rich in detail and nuance, revealing hidden gags and surprises throughout the show.
Sylvia (Laura Bell Bundy flighty and grounded at the same time), involved in a once-a-year fling with her brother-in-law Beau (Eric McCormack in a wonderful star turn of not knowing what he wants and so grabs everything), sends a confessional breakup telegram to her husband Clarke (Alex Moffat delightful in his physicality), Beau’s brother, so she can marry Beau. Clarke meanwhile has been having an ongoing affair with his sister-in-law Marjorie (Lilli Cooper flatulently grand and imposing), Beau’s wife, who is eight months pregnant with Clarke’s child (Beau thinking he’s the father and not his brother), when Dierdre (Dana Steingold a powerhouse of impropriety and scene-stealing), Beau’s long-standing lover, arrives with news that she’s left her murderous husband Richard/William (Nehal Joshi an innocent having lived a life of misunderstanding) to marry Beau and who will soon be arriving in a jealous rage in order to kill Beau. And if you’ve followed along with that, ten points. The twists and turns of the plot are a delight of assumptions and misunderstandings revealing character flaws and attributes that deliver a depth of humanity about the reciprocity of love, marriage, and relationships through the hyperbole and machinations of the farcical goings on. It’s a romp through love and sex.
This is Jason Alexander‘s Broadway directorial debut and he shines in bringing all the varied pieces together to present a playdate of delight for everyone. It’s always nice to leave the theatre with a good feeling of being both immensely entertained and given a goodie bag of things to think about as having, “…discovered what the cottage is for.”
The Cottage by Sandy Rustin, Directed by Jason Alexander
With Eric McCormack, Laura Bell Bundy, Lilli Cooper, Nehal Joshi, Alex Moffat, and Dana Steingold.
Scenic Design by Paul Tate dePoo III, Costume Design by Sydney Maresca, Lighting Design by Jiyoun Chang, Sound Design by Justin Ellington, Fight Direction by Thomas Schall, Dialect Coaching by Jerome Butler, and Wig/Hair/Makeup Design by Tommy Kurzman.
The Helen Hayes Theater 240 West 44th (btwn 7th and 8th).
Running time two hours with one intermission.
As always, this is just one person’s opinion in a world filled with them.