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Home Entertainment Review: The Cocktail Wit Is Watered Down in a Rickety New ‘Cottage’

Review: The Cocktail Wit Is Watered Down in a Rickety New ‘Cottage’

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A few moments here hint at that possibility, like when Sylvia says, “So you put a mustache on your mustache and changed your name to Richard?” — Lines that are perfectly logical in context and at the same time completely opposite in logic out of context. And Moffat’s extreme character choices are where he turns this “Saturday Night Live” clown performance into a modern dance, including a pose that looks like he’s bound to a pretzel with his feet on pointe.

But these are squibs. Zoom in, pop and whoosh for a second. Bundy and the self-deprecating McCormack consistently hit the mark despite the mostly elegant work of the cast, but the script and Alexander’s kind of desperation to keep things afloat inevitably let the cast down. For example, I don’t know a scene in Coward with 30 seconds of ear-splitting flatulence. Nor does the Stinger Code, which heralds the arrival of new characters, inspire confidence in the work’s genre discipline.

Thus, “The Cottage” is more a parody than a farce, and less a parody of Coward or Wilde than of Faydow, melodrama, and 1970s Middlebrough affair comedies such as “6 Rms Riv Vu” and “Same Time, Next Year.” More or less, they all used humor to assuage the sexual anxieties of the time by showing that characters twisted in the pangs of jealousy and lust nevertheless had good endings.

Rustin hopes to do something similar by introducing three additional amateur complications, including Deirdre (Dana Steingold) and Richard (Nehal Joshi), but it’s unfair to say more about them. In many ways, they guide Sylvia, who gradually becomes the center of the play, to reject the traditional assumptions that tend to lead women to loveless marriages. Developing this feminist perspective on cowardice, Rustin looks up the name of British suffrage leader Emmeline Pankhurst, cites a startling case of intergenerational sisterhood, and resolves a conspiracy.

The misogyny of human-made social institutions (and theater) isn’t necessarily news, but in theory I’m happy with this development, and impressed with Bundy’s ability to execute it right between silliness and seriousness. But after all the temporary tweaks and wobbles so far, the last-minute points-scoring seemed kind of out of the point. I might even have thought it was funny if she laughed more than once in the last 119 minutes of the play.

through October 29th at the Helen Hayes Theater in Manhattan. The Cottage Running time: 2 hours.

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