“The Cottage” – A Comedic Rendezvous

By Michael Nichols and Becca Jennings

A well-kept garden, scenic views, and a beautiful patch of countryside – an English cottage provides the perfect setting for family vacations, reunions, and, of course, the occasional smoldering affair.

Sandy Rustin’s comedy of manners, The Cottage, sets the stage for a whimsical tale of romance that quickly unravels into one of revenge.

Set in 1923 in the English countryside, this sexy comedy of love and betrayal unfolds when Sylvia Van Kipness decides to expose her secret love affair to her husband. The true meanings of love and marriage are called into question as a surprising web of secrets are exposed in this ridiculous – potentially murderous – romantic comedy.

An actress herself, author Sandy Rustin noticed few contemporary playwrights were creating new work within the romantic comedy genre – one of her own personal favorite genres to perform.

And so, she decided to write one herself, drawing inspiration from some of her favorite writers – Sir Noël Coward, the master of highly-polished comedies of manners and Oscar Wilde, celebrated for his playful literary wit.

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Greg Balla and Hanley Smith in FST’s The Cottage. Photo by Matthew Holler.

“I think I may be the only contemporary female playwright intentionally mirroring the style of Sir Noël Coward,” said Rustin. “I love the juxtaposition of elegance and stupidity. Watching two opposing forces working together is so interesting and exciting to me.”

Beyond the tangled romance, comedy lies at the heart of this clever work. Like the work of Coward and Wilde, the key to the comedy lies in the subtle nuances of the characters themselves.

“The most challenging and most fulfilling part of directing any comedy is identifying the mechanism of the laughs,” said Director Jason Cannon. “The laughs come not just from punchlines and pratfalls, but from the collision of gigantic emotions. You are going to laugh at these characters. Not because they are so different from us, but because they are us.”

But it wasn’t enough for Rustin to create just another English comedy. Instead, Rustin brings the genre into the 21st century with a cast of strong female characters – a far cry from the blushing damsels of Coward’s day.

“I gave myself the task of writing a show that would feature women in roles of strength and power while remaining true to the style of this Noël Coward-esque genre,” said Rustin.

With strong female characters, dark secrets, and the perfect setting for mischief and mayhem, The Cottage invites us all to laugh at ourselves. Just beneath the escapades is a gripping story of the beloved, the betrayed, and the better-left-unsaid.

The Cottage plays in FST’s Gompertz Theatre through August 18. For tickets and information, click here.