"While 'How to Transcend a Happy Marriage' emerges as one of the most thought-provoking plays of the year, as well as one of Ruhl's best, the built-in irony of the title takes on a special meaning when we learn, in the end, that it really is about transcendence, through 'harmony.'" Full Review
"Many may be turned off by its discursive and confessional tone or its unsettling sexual propositions. But for those willing to take the ride, the play is a provocative and poetic meditation on being caught between reasonably happy domesticity and untapped, unacknowledged desires. Hall is a perfect casting choice for Pip, full of sex appeal, fearlessness and mystery, while Tomei emphasizes the vulnerability shared by her peers." Full Review
"Provocative and enlightening...It abounds with situations that lead its characters to say the most quotable things, all of which should be experienced live in the theater and not in any critic’s review. They’re that memorable...It’s a quibble, but 'How to Transcend a Marriage' so abounds with ideas and novel situations that Ruhl’s characters occasionally take a backseat...The playwright is blessed with a magnificent cast under the always sensitive direction of Rebecca Taichman." Full Review
"What’s it all about? Ultimately, in playwright Sarah Ruhl’s world, it’s all about food, love and how we carry it forward for future generations...Tomei shines in her effervescent unrestricted performance as George. Lena Hall couldn’t be a better choice as the polyamorous Pip. The cast, en total, is brilliant. Sarah Ruhl, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, is full of surprises as she casts her imaginative net.” Full Review
"Both a very funny and decidedly rueful examination about the challenges of long-term matrimony. Perhaps Ruhl’s most overtly comic work—not to mention her most accessible one...Under Rebecca Taichman’s excellent direction, Tomei delivers one of the most riveting and multi-layered performances of her long career, whether she’s commanding center stage alone or blending into the ensemble...Ruhl’s simply given us food for thought and a lot of laughs." Full Review
“Conversing over drinks and hors d'oeuvres, their talk is crisp and entertaining…While Hall is appropriately the production's attention-grabber, Tomei's performance comfortably builds as George questions her life's directions, leading ‘How to Transcend a Happy Marriage’ to a charming phantasmagorical finish that points out the conflict between our animal nature and the societal norms we create to control it.” Full Review
"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...Directed without sensationalism but with intrepid good humor by Taichman, the inevitable bacchanalian reveries ensue. But so does heady talk about Pythagorean triangles, the immortality of a Bach minuet, grief, architecture and why women are expected to lose their 'animal nature' after childbirth." Full Review
"The dialogue is smart, funny and sexy, the actors have achieved a fine ensemble and the direction is seamless, once again demonstrating how well-attuned Taichman is to Ruhl’s sensibility...While the first act is nearly perfect, the play has serious second-act problems...While I have no problem with magical realism, I don't feel it works here. The points that I thought Ruhl wanted to make...do not need magical embellishment...It’s a flawed play with a very enjoyable first act." Full Review
“An intriguing new comedy…Ruhl's comic yet earnest mix of contemporary fact and timeless fantasy is matched by Taichman's buoyant staging and grounded by Tomei's warm and yearning George. As presented here, polyamory complicates things (think of the logistics!) but also satisfies the human animal's omnivorous nature and spiritual longing to be part of something bigger. Striving for transcendence, George discovers that magic and meaning were in the neighborhood all along.” Full Review
“Ruhl skillfully transports the audience into the experiences of the characters and induces an intense level of reflection on their journey…Ms. Ruhl finds the poetry and music in these characters' tumultuous experiences that bring intellectual and emotional understanding of their growth and change…If you are a fan of Sarah Ruhl’s work, you will definitely find this play worth seeing. The cast is excellent, the directing (by Rebecca Taichman) is unified, and the writing is authentic." Full Review
“A wonderful addition to the Sarah Ruhl canon: a moving exploration of the limits—or is it the limitlessness?—of love…I don’t want to ruin the fun—and there is a lot of fun here—by telling you what happens…There are plenty of laughs along the way, especially from the ageless and brilliant Marisa Tomei...Lena Hall is well cast as the mystical Pip, but everyone in the play is a winner.” Full Review
"Ruhl approaches the subject with her usual wit and intelligence, subtly questioning our societal assumptions around love and commitment...Director Taichman impressively grounds Ruhl's prodigious intellect in an ever-present dramatic tension...Unfortunately, the archetypal nature of our central triad somewhat masks the truth that polyamorous groupings are made of all types...Still, a combination of thoughtful performances and smart direction ensures that we never feel bored or alienated." Full Review
"The first act unravels like a tacky sex farce...Sexual and spiritual complications follow in the deeper second act. The characters gain dimension and the proceedings acquire a fantastic, whimsical tinge...Director Rebecca Taichman and an adept cast handle the transition with dexterity...Tomei paints the stage with a palette full of emotional colors...It’s a startlingly affecting performance in a surprisingly effective play which transcends categories." Full Review
“An extremely clever play…Sarah Ruhl and director Rebecca Taichman neither defend nor attack polyamory while dealing with such issues as personal and familial responsibility, shame, and sexuality throughout one’s life. The cast is uniformly strong, but Lena Hall does the heavy lifting with an infectious lightness…The second act is much darker than the first and sometimes goes astray…Ruhl still has a bit more to say, bringing it all back home with a sweetly meaningful finale.” Full Review
"One of the great joys of Ruhlian drama is luxuriating in its complex nest of ideas...Ruhl’s dense tissue of quotations makes familiar concerns feel new...Metwally and Weigert, the standouts among a strong cast, negotiate this dangerous territory best, providing a beating heart for their characters that doesn't exist on the page...For all the play’s variegated pleasures, however, it’s hard not to wish that such talented artists would begin to look beyond the walls of the privileged few." Full Review
“The two-hour journey to these epiphanies is less a narrative than a series of vignettes, some more entertaining than others…But the dialog sparkles with Ruhl's trademark wit and lyricism. And director Rebecca Taichman ably juggles Ruhl's abiding interest in female sexuality with her more metaphysical fancies…The entire cast is excellent…Marisa Tomei and Robin Weigert are particularly appealing as George and Jane.” Full Review
"What ensues or so we think is an orgy between all seven...The problem with this is none of this makes sense...Marisa Tomei narrates the play and she is transcendent. Her luminous nature and the timber of her voice make this drama easy to watch...Also standing out was Lena Hall as the girl everyone wants...Rebecca Taichman is a director to watch...This is a show men will like much more than women, as the questions that are being asked are men’s fantasy and a women’s nightmare." Full Review
"An idea-inebriated, unsteady comedy...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, they seldom seem entirely at home in their characters’ skins...The elements never quite coalesce into a single fluid stream of thought or story. Ms. Ruhl is suspended ambivalently here between satire and empathy." Full Review
"Ruhl is a lovely writer, capable of witty aphorisms, sophisticated dialogue, humorous setups, and a theatrical sense of wonder. She also has a tendency towards the twee. All this is on display in 'Marriage,' but this play doesn’t come together as effectively as some of her previous theater that touches on similar territory...As reliable and appealing as the rest of cast is, they are portraying characters that seem deliberately bland...Manages to be simultaneously entertaining and tedious." Full Review
“Ruhl's multipronged discussion comedy, crisply directed by Rebecca Taichman, is preachy, uneven, and provocative; it's also confusing, occasionally funny, intermittently engrossing, and intellectually ambitious...No one manages to transcend Ruhl's contrivances to create a truly believable human being. Hall makes as much of her flamboyant role as could anyone...Tomei...doesn't quite overcome the artificialities of the chitchat required in the early scenes but gradually comes into her own.” Full Review
"Until this point, Ruhl has been content juxtaposing complacency and adventure, and the usual ideas of youth versus maturity...Soon, those ideas begin to lose focus for us; they become less engaging, more annoying. It’s possible that the usually astute director Taichman has ceded editorial control over the goings-on, for 'How to Transcend' reads better than it plays in this production–the fine work of fine actors notwithstanding. The takeaway is more head-scratching than transcendent." Full Review
"After a sexy and amusing first act, 'How to Transcend a Happy Marriage' goes downhill quickly...Director Rebecca Taichman has assembled a terrific ensemble for this production...They’re ultimately undone by the problematic script...Featuring fast and funny dialogue, the play initially seems to be operating on all cylinders. But the second act, which delves into magical realism, becomes hopelessly murky and confusing." Full Review
"Sarah Ruhl has written an amiable hour about monogamy and its discontents...Then, unfortunately, Ruhl inserts an intermission, spins out 35 more minutes of chatty whimsy...A light, frolicsome one-act mutates into a mediocre marriage play...If 'How to Transcend' were a tryst, it would be two hours of light foreplay followed by your partner drifting abstractedly into the next room to browse books on Eastern philosophy. Eventually, you get up and leave, quite unsatisfied." Full Review
"Playwright Ruhl is once again provocative, colorful and humorous. But to what avail? Beats me. It’s fine for your play to have a mystical air...but please make it pay off, one way or another...Well staged by Rebecca Taichman...The somewhat questionable play is enhanced by a very good cast...Ruhl continues to impress as a playwright, highly so. Whatever she was aiming at with 'Happy Marriage,' though, didn’t transcend this viewer." Full Review
“Slick and well paced enough to spackle over some of the pockmarks in Ruhl's unsteady dialogue…Taichman also guides her actors to play up their necessarily volatile characteristics without roundly dipping into caricature…Unfortunately, Ruhl does not match their group discipline in the second act…This is really tired territory for her…Against the odds, Ruhl regains some of her momentum in the final scene, and brings things to a thoughtful, even moving, finish.” Full Review
See it if You enjoy a great ensemble cast with a quirky story premise that is fun and interesting and definitely a little odd.
Don't see it if You need your story to be straightforward. The oddness adds to the appeal here.
See it if you like shows that challenge the audience to really think about relationships, sex and love. Marisa Tomei best performance of the year!
Don't see it if you have a very closed mind and don't want to be confronted with other realites.
See it if You want to experience Lena Hall's version of "She'll be Coming Round the Mountain." You like edgy plays about sex and don't mind ambiguity.
Don't see it if You don't want to hear frank sexual talk about polyamory, group sex, sexual acts, etc.
See it if you like to check out new work or are a fan of Sarah Ruhl's work. Worth a visit for the great cast, standouts are Marisa Tomie & Lena Hall.
Don't see it if you are a prude and/or do not have an open mind
See it if You love Sarah Ruhl. This is not her strongest play, but it is definitely of her aesthetic and, perhaps, one of her boldest.
Don't see it if You do not like theater that makes you uncomfortable. This play is all about the subversion of perceived rules of sex, romance and marriage.
See it if You're interested in hearing a topical, relevant discussion on modern love and sexuality.
Don't see it if Frank discussions of sex, bisexuality, polyamory and topics of that ilk make you cringe, even if they're humorous.
See it if You like Ruhl, or want to support interesting new play...or just because you are a Tomei fan (as I am).
Don't see it if You are uncomfortable with explicit sexuality, or discussion about non-traditional values. Definitely for adults only.
See it if like Marisa Tomei or Lena Hall; it's definitely racy and different than almost anything out there. Definitely for adult audiences
Don't see it if don't like discussions of sex and non-traditional relationships
See it if you enjoy refreshing, fast-paced meditations on the nature of love in its many forms; interesting staging and some great performances
Don't see it if you have issues with animal death (the play opens with a "carcass" on stage; there are many discussion of it), or are offended by nudity/sex
See it if You want to experience a unique play that tackles issues not often addressed on stage,such as polyamory. Excellent performances.
Don't see it if You prefer plays dealing with more traditional subject matter.
See it if You are interested in an unusual exploration of sexuality and friendship in and out of marriage.
Don't see it if Explicit talk and some overt acts of sexuality, specially non-traditional sexuality would offend you.
See it if you are discontent with monogamy and curious about polyamory. This domestic drama has surreal/poetic touches that will keep you thinking.
Don't see it if you want a linear play without a "what-is-going-on? second act feeling/thinking. Not many answers but lots of questions explored here.
See it if you’re curious about a play that tries to use polyamory as a means of looking at marriage, monogamy, and variant expressions of love.
Don't see it if you have to pay full price; that’s way too much for this mishmash of a play.
See it if if you're in the mood for a quirky, odd, neat little play. Excellent cast, cool storyline, great set. A very enjoyable evening of theater.
Don't see it if you're turned off by the complexities of a marriage. The cast takes a bit to find their chemistry, but once they do, it's a good show.
See it if you like Ruhl's plays. Not really my thing. The play explores love and relationships in various permutations and can be thought provoking
Don't see it if can not handle dealing with sex and sexuality. There is brief nudity. An orgy is loosely depicted. As for the play, it's a bit convoluted.
See it if Act I was hysterical - smart, funny and relevant, if a bit cliched. It flew by. Marisa Tomei really commits to her character.
Don't see it if Act II went to a very weird and unpleasant place. Started looking at my watch after 20 minutes.
See it if You are a fan of Sarah Ruhl, Marisa Tomei, or Lena Hall. Watching people deal with awkward sexual situations is interesting to you.
Don't see it if Hyper-sexuality & polyamory make you uncomfortable. You prefer plays more rooted in reality-- this stretched a li'l too far outside reality.
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