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‘The Cottage’ Review: Broadway Comedy Directed by Jason Alexander



A fancy nation property the place half a dozen lovers unveil their infidelities is the setting of “The Cottage,” which opened at Broadway’s Helen Hayes Theater tonight. Set in 1923, this comedy of manners by the playwright Sandy Ruskin is so totally old school that it might come as a shock it’s not based mostly — like so many Broadway outings currently are — on present materials. Which isn’t to say that any a part of it feels unique.  

It is a paint-by-numbers intercourse farce, with parameters that don’t prolong past the apparent: heterosexual marriage is restrictive for all, unreasonable for a lot of, and, oh, so thrilling to transgress. The forbidden-fruit pleasures that “The Cottage” tries to move off as a feast, in a lavish manufacturing directed by Jason Alexander, are acquainted, superficial and fleeting.

Laura Bell Bundy’s Sylvia actually savors enjoying mistress to Eric McCormack’s Beau. The play opens on the 2 of them preening and mugging the morning after their annual evening of athletic bliss. (Accents are cartoonishly British all through.) Sylvia is so deliriously happy, in truth, that she’s simply despatched breakup telegrams to their wives. Solely it seems that their spouses, Clarke and Marjorie (Alex Moffat and Lily Cooper, respectively), are shagging one another, too, and extra than simply yearly — Marjorie is pregnant (and Cooper saddled with woefully outsized padding).

Oh, Beau and Clarke additionally occur to be brothers whose ailing mom owns their extramarital lovenest. Two extra soon-to-be exes, performed by Nehal Joshi and Dana Steingold, ultimately be part of the tell-all tea social gathering, every harboring a secret id that vies for second-act intrigue. 

Sending up social mores will resonate so long as anybody presumes that human need might ever play by guidelines. Monogamy is hard, no match is ideal, and other people have intercourse society says they shouldn’t. A brand new comedy set a century in the past would possibly retread such well-worn territory with any variety of questions posed looking back — about sexuality, gender roles, patriarchy, capitalism, or any logic of manners, actually. Essentially the most profound query approached by “The Cottage” is whether or not soulmates exist. (Spoiler: They don’t.)

Even a coda suggesting {that a} girl wants a cottage of her personal is undercut by a joke that she’d clearly nonetheless need to screw males there. And it’s no marvel: “The Cottage” doesn’t give ladies credit score for wanting anything.

The manufacturing, underneath Alexander’s route, works feverishly to mine laughs from repeated sight gags (like cigarettes outlandishly hidden within the decor) and from performances turned as much as 11 which have nowhere to go. McCormack, who makes a believable-enough gigolo, is each underused and overshadowed. Bundy is as nimble and assured as an Outdated Hollywood star, swathed in blonde finger-waves and ludicrously glamorous evening garments (costumes are by Sydney Maresca). And Moffat, a “Saturday Night Live” alum, is an particularly adept and exact bodily comic in what is basically a drawn-out, after-midnight sketch. 

However Rustin’s characters aren’t grounded in issues past their carnal ones, so there’s not a lot to root for past them swapping spit and sweethearts. Even the world-weary Marjorie, whom Cooper performs with muted power, is an unlikely and sexy jackrabbit. 

No less than there may be ample surroundings to chew: the hovering and absurdly ornamented set, a collage of printed wallpaper and rarified knick-knacks, by Paul Tate dePoo III, evokes curtain-up applause. It’s the manufacturing’s first and final second of real revelation.

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