The hilarious new farce The Cottage by Broadway newcomer Sandy Rustin has set up shop at the Hayes Theater. The outrageous romantic romp explores themes of betrayal, desire, and much more, and features an A-list ensemble of performers that includes Tony nominees Laura Bell Bundy and Lilli Cooper. NY1 Entertainment journalist Frank DiLella recently caught up with the two actresses to chat about bringing some comedy to the boards this summer and working with two TV icons, Jason Alexander and Eric McCormack.
Laura Bell, this is your first time back on Broadway since Legally Blonde. How does it feel to be home?
LAURA BELL BUNDY: That’s exactly it. It’s a bit of a homecoming for me. I’ve missed this community and this process. Being on stage in general is what I feel I’m best designed to do. I just enjoy the whole process.
You play the character of Sylvia in The Cottage. What can you tell me about Sylvia? Because I know you’ve been told to keep the story a secret…
LBB: The show is full of surprises, so I don’t want to give anything away. But I can say: Sylvia begins the show on the brink of life’s beginning — so she thinks — starting life anew. She’s sort of lost in the blindness of love, and we see her there, wistful and light. And in the play we see her transform in an interesting way.
Lilli Cooper, you play the role of Marjorie, but you were originally called in for a different role.
LILLI COOPER: My first appointment for the show was for the character of Dierdre, which is the role Dana Steingold is playing. And I read the script and I just vibed with Marjorie way more and felt her essence. I actually turned down the audition for Dierdre and took the risk of waiting to see if they would give me the appointment for Marjorie — and luckily it paid off.
Who is Marjorie? How does she fit in? Again, I know you can’t give anything away.…
LC: Marjorie is the baroness. She’s the wealthy, judgmental, side-eye-giving woman of the show. But she definitely has some secrets up her sleeve and has a lot to say.
Laura Bell, you are known for your musical-theater work. Will we get any Laura Bell singing or dancing in The Cottage?
LBB: There are two moments. [Laughs.] When I come out in the beginning, I’m humming, and there’s a little moment where I dance for fun. The thing about this play, it reminds you of a Noël Coward– or Oscar Wilde-type play. And because those plays are all about pace and rhythm, there is a musicality to it. We just don’t break into song and dance.
Lilli, what’s it like to be directed by TV icon and Tony winner Jason Alexander? Big Seinfeld fan?
LC: I wasn’t the biggest Seinfeld fan, but I am the biggest Rodgers and Hammerstein Cinderella with Brandy fan. That is truly my generation, and I watched that movie on VHS on repeat and I know every word. And I actually recently rewatched it with my son and I still know every word. So of course I knew Jason from Seinfeld, but what I really loved and adored him from is Cinderella.
LBB: I love Jason. In a lot of ways, I think our processes are complementary. He has pictures he wants to see, and I work from the inside out. I understand the idea of the big picture, but I have to know how I’m getting there authentically and truthfully. So that’s a nice marriage. I’m doing my side of the work and he’s doing his side of the work. Not to mention he’s brilliant with the comedy bits.
Laura Bell, you play opposite Eric McCormack, another TV icon.
LBB: I loved Will & Grace. Eric is amazing to work with — he’s such a professional. And such a mensch. He understands this particular style of comedy really well, and it’s just wonderful to be his partner on this because I’m learning things. The first day of rehearsal, we were, like, shot out of a canon. We were having so much fun together. He’s fearless.
Lilli, you come from a Broadway family. Your father is Broadway royalty: Tony-winning actor Chuck Cooper. Your brother Eddie is currently performing in the 2023 Tony-winning revival of Parade around the corner from your theater.
LC: It’s surreal. I was just visiting him at his apartment, and he left to go do his Broadway show, and I’m walking out now to do my Broadway show. My parents couldn’t be more proud. It feels like a dream come true.
What was it like growing up in the theatrical Cooper household?
LC: I truly followed in the footsteps of my brothers and my dad. My brother went to LaGuardia High School to study drama. And when I was 8, 9, 10 years old, I would go and see the plays he did there and thought they were miraculous and I always wanted to do it. I also went to LaGuardia. That’s when I started my professional career — I was in Spring Awakening while I was in high school. And growing up in Hell’s Kitchen in New York, I was always surrounded by Broadway. My earliest memory of seeing a Broadway show was being backstage at The Life with my dad.
Laura — I want to pivot for a second — you’re dedicated to demanding equality for women. We’ve seen that with your art, your podcast work, your social-media platforms, your website. You have a foundation, Womxn of Tomorrow.
LBB: Womxn of Tomorrow is a foundation that encourages equality for women in the social consciousness through art, education, and community. How we’ve gone about it in the art way is, I did an album with my partners Shea Carter and Jeremy Adelman, where every song addresses a different issue women are facing today through this jazz-pop music. And my podcast delves deeper into those subjects — equal pay, breaking the glass ceiling — and we go deeper into those subjects, and that’s the educational piece. And on the community piece, we have a monthly membership app where there are 25 classes a month in various areas for women that help a woman feel empowered in all areas of her life.
LBB: Yes. I would love to see it happen. We had it on the books last year for our 15th anniversary, but the creative team felt like they needed a bit more time. I think it’s still in the works, and I would love to do it. And our entire cast is on board!
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