Saturday, October 28, 2023

The Cottage (Broadway)

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

Sylvia Van Kipness (Laura Bell Bundy) has been spending some time at her mother-in-law’s cottage in 1920’s England, but not for innocent reasons. The truth is she has been having an affair with her husband’s brother Beau (Eric McCormack). Chaos ensues when she decides to make a move and send a telegram to her husband Clarke (Alex Moffat), who comes to the cottage for a possible confrontation among the three of them. To make matters worse, Beau’s heavily pregnant wife Marjorie (Lilli Cooper) also crashes the party. Unbeknownst to the two lovers, their significant partners harbor some secrets of their own. As if the morning couldn’t get any more exciting, a woman named Deirdre (Dana Steingold) and, later, her potentially murderous husband Richard (Nehal Joshi) also enter the fray. Will Sylvia surprise everyone with her indiscretion or will she be the one to get the biggest surprise(s) of her life?

I wasn’t that convinced at first. Set in the 1920’s in the titular English cottage. RP accents coming across as Transatlantic. Tendency for slapstick. When the twists start coming in, though, the narrative begins to pull you in, perhaps due to intrigue as to what surprises are yet to come and how all of this will end. All in all, The Cottage is a decent comedy that leans on the strength of its actors as well as the conspicuous production design that literally takes center stage and just feels like a character in itself.

Mounting a straight comedy is difficult, especially nowadays when your audience’s attention span is rather short. The Cottage starts slow but immediately builds up rapport with the audience through some of its gimmicks. One notable trope running from start to finish is how the characters find random cigarettes hidden in various objects within the cottage. It is not funny per se, but the attention to detail care of the set design team is amusing and amazing at the same time.

Did we say production design? Oh well, we couldn’t get enough of that cottage and how opulently designed it is,alright, from the green wallpaper all the way to the furniture. You will want to live in that cottage, which is why you will no longer be surprised when they all hope to get it for themselves towards the end of the play. Suffice it to say that you just feel like you are in a real cottage somewhere in England’s countryside. It is easy on the eyes and does help in keeping your attention from straying away.

As for the acting, it’s hard to pick a favorite because this is a legit ensemble piece. Everyone contributes and the rapport among all of them is a key factor as to how everything just jives perfectly. Nobody is grandstanding. Everybody is just bouncing energies with one another. It is arguable, though, that Bundy’s Sylvia is the main character, no doubt. In this sense, she does carry the play, but not without solid support from her co-actors. If we have to pinpoint one scene stealer, though, then that would be no other than Steingold who gives Deirdre her all, no holds barred.

The message screams women empowerment seeing how everything ends up and considering the path that Sylvia opts to take for herself. Does she really need a lover? Does she really need a husband? Does she really need a man? That is the main question in this narrative, one that is clearly answered before curtain call. Other than that, the plot just revolves around the timeless issue of mankind not being satisfied with monogamy. As for the reason why, they don’t really explore that much.

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