“The Cottage” takes place at a fancy country estate, where multiple lovers reveal their affairs. Written by playwright Sandy Ruskin, this 1923 comedy of manners feels delightfully old-fashioned, and it’s not based on existing material, unlike many recent Broadway productions. However, its lack of originality is evident throughout.
“The Cottage” is a predictable sex farce that explores the clichés of heterosexual marriage as restrictive, unreasonable, and tempting to defy. However, the so-called pleasures it presents feel familiar, shallow, and short-lived in the lavish production helmed by Jason Alexander.
The play opens with Laura Bell Bundy’s character, Sylvia, enjoying her role as a mistress to Eric McCormack’s Beau. The two are shown preening and mugging the morning after their annual night of athletic bliss. It turns out that Sylvia has just sent breakup telegrams to their better halves. However, it’s later revealed that their spouses, Clarke and Marjorie (played by Alex Moffat and Lily Cooper, respectively), are also involved in a romantic affair, and more than just once a year — Marjorie is even pregnant.
As the story progresses, it adds two more characters played by Nehal Joshi and Dana Steingold, who eventually join the tell-all tea party with their own secrets.
While the play tries to send up social mores and explore human desire and infidelity, it lacks depth in addressing broader themes. The characters’ struggles with monogamy and societal expectations may resonate, but they remain superficially explored. The most significant question posed in the play is whether soulmates exist, and the answer seems to be a resounding “no.”
Even the coda, suggesting a woman needs her own cottage, is undermined by a joke that implies her desire to engage in sexual encounters with men. The play fails to credit women with wanting anything more than romantic entanglements.
The production, under Alexander’s direction, attempts to find humor in repeated sight gags and exaggerated performances, but the humor falls flat due to the lack of substance in the characters and their stories. Despite talented actors like McCormack and Bundy, their characters feel one-dimensional, leaving little for the audience to root for beyond their romantic entanglements.
The elaborate set and glamorous costumes may impress visually, but they cannot compensate for the play’s lack of depth and originality. “The Cottage” ultimately comes across as a dated and formulaic sex farce, offering little beyond shallow laughs and fleeting entertainment.
In conclusion, “The Cottage” struggles to break free from traditional tropes of sex farces, failing to deliver meaningful commentary or memorable characters. While the play may entertain for a short while, it lacks the depth and originality needed to leave a lasting impact on its audience.