25 Jul ASPEN DAILY NEWS: Theatre Aspen Debuts ‘The Cottage,’ a Farce as Funny as it is Poignant
At one point during “The Cottage” –Theatre Aspen’s third and final play to debut this summer at the Hurst tent – one of the characters remarks, “It’s the anticipation that makes it awful; reality is never quite as glum.” It’s a line that could serve as a synopsis of “The Cottage’s” major plot points. Almost.
The play, written by actress and playwright Sandy Rustin, is less a love story and more a farcical tale of sex and betrayal. But in the 1920’s English countryside cottage in which the play is set, there seems to be little difference between the two.
At the outset, Slyvia Van Kipness (played with the perfect mix of over-the-top sexiness and love-hungry desperation by Nancy Anderson) decides to expose her love affair to her husband Beau (Spencer Plachy in a role that can only be described as entitled, overgrown man-child, albeit with a British accent) and her lover’s wife Marjorie (a delightfully stuffy yet virile Michele Ragusa). What ensues is an hour-and-a-half comedy of errors during which lies are exposed, love is proclaimed, and lives are threatened.
And because technical, logistical and artistic necessities of the editing process are undoubtedly some of the most challenging in the creating of any new work, I often find myself remarking that such and such play or movie or book could have done without that scene, or that chapter, or that whole 30-minute section in the middle. But “The Cottage,” for all its simultaneous exaggerations and simplifications of love and its platitudes on human emotions and relationships, is a tightly woven play that makes you laugh as much as it makes you nod in recognition of the universal themes that make even the most absurd comedy hit close to home.
By design, many of the actors of Theatre Aspen’s summer shows appear in more than one production. One of the unintended consequences is the sheer joy the audience experience of seeing an actor like Spencer Plachy one night as an unemployed-steel-worker-turned-stripper in “Full Monty” and then a privileged British bloke the next. It’s an interesting interplay and an experience most audiences won’t ever get.
“The Cottage” is also apart of Theatre Aspen’s ongoing effort to present new works from emerging artists. (The play opened last year in the Astoria Performing Arts Center, and Aspen marks the work’s regional debut. If this is the product of Theatre Aspen’s focusing on new plays and playwrights, then I, for one, want to see a lot more of it.