Actress-playwright Sandy Rustin first fell in love with the work of Noel Coward as a sophomore in college, when she appeared in a production of his Hay Fever. Later, working professionally, she realized that not many people were writing in this sophisticated romantic comedy genre she wanted to perform in. So, armed with the comedy writing skills she developed at famed improv ensemble The Upright Citizens Brigade, she decided to write a Coward-like comedy herself.
The result, The Cottage, is the last of several plays receiving a staged reading in Florida Studio Theatre’s Summer Workshop Series this month. Rustin (whose in-laws happen to live in Sarasota) has been here all week prepping for the workshop for this play she’s been honing since 2014.
The comedy, set in 1923 in the English countryside, centers on what happens when Sylvia Van Kipness decides to expose her love affair to her husband and her lover’s wife. A hilarious web of secrets starts to unravel in a show Rustin says has more of a “feminist bent” to it than often found in similar comedies. A one-day only presentation last fall at the Manhattan Theatre Club was directed by Seinfeld alum Jason Alexander, and critics have been receptive there and in other showings, with the Huffington Post declaring it “explodes with hilarity.”
Rustin says of the six-character piece that “the audience response is almost like the show’s seventh character. With each staging, I’ve definitely learned more” about the most winning lines and the most likely laughs. “I would love for a real full-run production [in New York] and also regionally.”
Sound like your cup of tea? You may still be able to make a reservation for the reading, set for 3 p.m. Friday, Aug. 31, at the Keating Theatre, by calling the box office, 366-9000.