Marisa Tomei and Lena Hall. Photo by Kyle Froman.
Presented by Lincoln Center Theater
By Sarah Ruhl
Directed by Rebecca Taichman
Cast: Lena Hall, Brian Hutchison, David McElwee, Omar Metwally, Naian González Norvind, Austin Smith, Marisa Tomei, Robin Weigert
Scenic Design: David Zinn
Costume Design: Susan Hilferty
Lighting Design: Peter Kaczorowski
Sound Design: Matt Hubbs
Original Music: Todd Almond
Stage Manager: Charles M. Turner III
First Performance February 23, 2017
Opening March 20, 2017
Final Performance May 7, 2017
Submit a review for How to Transcend a Happy Marriage
At a dinner party in the wilds of New Jersey, George (Marisa Tomei) and her husband talk with a fellow married couple about a younger acquaintance—a polyamorous woman (Lena Hall) who also hunts her own meat. Fascinated, they invite this mysterious woman and her two live-in boyfriends to a New Year’s Eve party which alters the course of their lives.
‘How to Transcend a Happy Marriage’ explores the boundaries of monogamy and the limits of friendship. This new work asks what happens when parents let their wild sides come out of hibernation.
Ben Brantley – New York Times
Fanciful mysticism and anchoring reality coexist less comfortably in “How to Transcend a Happy Marriage” than they do in other works by Ms. Ruhl. Though the cast members are uniformly agile and appealing — and it’s always a pleasure to be reacquainted with Ms. Tomei’s expert, casual comic timing — they seldom seem entirely at home in their characters’ skins.
Jeremy Gerard – Deadline
It’s possible that the usually astute director Rebecca Taichman (her magnificent production of Indecent is soon to open on Broadway) has ceded editorial control over the goings on, for How To Transcend A Happy Marriage reads better than it plays in this production – the fine work of fine actors notwithstanding. The takeaway is more head-scratching than transcendent, as evanescent as Pip herself proves to be.
Marilyn Stasio – Variety
There is abundant sex and nudity in Sarah Ruhl’s new play, “How to Transcend a Happy Marriage,” along with some brainy conversation about the ethics of animal slaughter. The setting for this experimental piece (now playing at Lincoln Center Theater) is exceptionally handsome, and under the sure directorial hand of Rebecca Taichman, a tip-top cast headed by Marisa Tomei performs with brio. Nonetheless, the show is both baffling and boring.
Joe Dziemianowicz – NY Daily News
An impromptu orgy rattles the BFF status of two married couples — George, as in Georgia, and Paul (Marisa Tomei and Omar Metwally) and Jane and Michael (Robin Weigert and Brian Hutchison). Chalk it up to pot brownies and, even more, provocatively polyamorous Pip (Lena Hall), who hunts her own meat and slays in the bedroom with two live-in boyfriends (David McElwee and Austin Smith). Sarah Ruhl’s play starts with promise, is skillfully acted and deftly staged by Rebecca Taichman, but after a magical twist, one of the author’s signatures, the story about the limits and limitlessness of love turns ungainly and less interesting. “My life is so small!” says George. The play is too much.
Breanne L. Heldman
Unfortunately, the story is rather more bewildering than “profound.” Amid a wealth of terrific, clever, laugh-out-loud dialogue — Ruhl is a MacArthur Genius and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, after all — are moments of total realness and others of supernatural wildness, yet none of it quite clicks into place. I struggled to get over the unlikeliness of a young temp’s supervisor inviting her into her home as a dinner guest and that temp accepting… especially on New Year’s Eve. I gave up trying to understand where Pip ended and an egg-laying bird began in the second act.
Robert Hofler – The Wrap
When a play begins with a goat, you know you’re in for an evening of heavy lifting. Generally, that’s not a good sign. Two modern dramas, however, show us how engrossing that kind of weighty workout can be. Edward Albee’s absorbing “The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?” references that very significant beast (the word “tragedy” has roots in a Greek word meaning “goat-song”) and, in the process, manages to be very funny, as well as unpretentious. Equally provocative and enlightening is Sarah Ruhl’s new play, “How to Transcend a Happy Marriage,” which opened Monday at LCT’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. That one of the eight characters ends up as a dove and lays three eggs on stage should also defer no theatergoer from seeing Ruhl’s play.
Frank Scheck – The Hollywood Reporter
First, a confession: I’ve never been to an orgy. But I imagine they probably start out as a great deal of fun before eventually becoming tiresome and exhausting. Such is also the case with the new play by Sarah Ruhl, a Lincoln Center Theater premiere that depicts how a trio of polyamorous lovers have a life-changing impact on two suburban married couples. After a sexy and amusing first act, How to Transcend a Happy Marriage goes downhill quickly, prompting one to ask the question, “What the hell just happened?”
Matthew Murray – Talkin’ Broadway
As a result, like The Old Boy, Ruhl’s last play in this theater, this one runs less than two hours but still feels bloated—that’s what happens when you say too much to really say anything. I suppose that deficit is marginally understandable, as Ruhl’s characters are discovering that, in relationships, more can really be more. But considering How to Transcend a Happy Marriage as a play rather than a social treatise, more isn’t more. It’s just less.
Jesse Green – Vulture
But as a play — even the carefully artificial kind that Ruhl, almost uniquely, sometimes pull off — it’s surprisingly dry and importunate. The proportion of ideas to people is out of whack. As with polyamory, it seems to me, the problem isn’t having too much feeling to share; it’s having too little.
Linda Winer – Newsday
But this new play is a subversive enchantment. It is part absurd domestic serio-comedy, part erotic magic realism, unflinching about taboos and about questioning that, just maybe, monogamy isn’t enough.
David Cote – TimeOut NY
Sarah Ruhl (Stage Kiss) has written an amiable hour about monogamy and its discontents, enacted by two good-looking couples over prosecco and cheese. If there’s an oppressive fug of bourgeois self-satisfaction, that just seems part of a satirical plan. Then, unfortunately, Ruhl inserts an intermission, spins out 35 more minutes of chatty whimsy and calls the sum How to Transcend a Happy Marriage. A feathery, frolicsome one-act mutates into a mediocre marriage play.