How to Transcend a Happy Marriage
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How to Transcend a Happy Marriage
72

How to Transcend a Happy Marriage NYC Reviews and Tickets

72%
(199 Reviews)
Positive
61%
Mixed
34%
Negative
5%
Members say
Great acting, Quirky, Edgy, Thought-provoking, Entertaining

About the Show

Oscar winner Marisa Tomei and Tony winner Lena Hall star in Sarah Ruhl's new play at Lincoln Center about the boundaries of monogamy, the limits of friendship, and what happens when parents indulge their wild sides.

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Member Reviews (199)

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86
Funny, Clever, Great acting, Refreshing, Thought-provoking

See it if you like fresh ideas explored on stage, in this case polyamory, group sex & friendship between couples, appreciate Marisa Tomei's talent

Don't see it if Post modern sexual behavior and graphic talk disturbs you, you are not a fan of magical realism or allegories, you need plots wrapped up

65
Provocative sarah ruhl tries to provoke again but loses her way

See it if 1st act features Bob Carol Ted Alice-like shocking and hilarious foursome, charismatic Lena Hall, winning Marisa Tomei

Don't see it if incoherent 2nd act goes NOWHERE in extending plot/rich themes of scandalous 1st act, becomes banal appeal to love thy neighbor

Critic Reviews (35)

The New York Times
March 20th, 2017

"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."
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Time Out New York
March 20th, 2017

"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."
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New York Magazine / Vulture
March 20th, 2017

"Taichman appears to have encouraged the entire cast to play it large and play it for laughs, which are mostly not forthcoming...Surrealism undermines the play at every turn...If you think of it as a daydream or an anthology of oddities, 'How to Transcend' is potentially fascinating. 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."
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The Hollywood Reporter
March 20th, 2017

"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."
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Entertainment Weekly
March 20th, 2017

"Unfortunately, the story is rather more bewildering than 'profound.' Amid a wealth of terrific, clever, laugh-out-loud dialogue are moments of total realness and others of supernatural wildness, yet none of it quite clicks into place...;How to Transcend a Happy Marriage' is funny and filled with great actors giving impressive, vulnerable performances. But ultimately, the lasting impression is less than the sum of its parts."
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Variety
March 21st, 2017

“The setting for this experimental piece 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…An initially provocative but eventually lame play…This new work has a lot on its mind that deserves our attention…But no solid matter emerges from these wink-wink hints at deeper substance.”
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Deadline
March 20th, 2017

"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."
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New York Daily News
March 20th, 2017

"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...The play is too much."
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AM New York
March 20th, 2017

"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."
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Theatermania
March 20th, 2017

"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."
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BroadwayWorld
March 21st, 2017

“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.”
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Lighting & Sound America
March 30th, 2017

"The play, after initially charting a funny, if familiar, dramatic course, collapses in a heap of half-expressed ideas and unraveled plot strands...For much of the first act, 'How to Transcend' is very funny, in a conventional, old-school sex comedy kind of way...Completely implodes after intermission...As the action continues to flag, it seems clear that Ruhl has little or no idea where to take her beleaguered married couples...The cast, led by a delightful Marisa Tomei...is faultless."
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Talkin' Broadway
March 20th, 2017

“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.”
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TheaterScene.net
March 30th, 2017

"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.'"
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Theater Pizzazz
March 20th, 2017

"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.”
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CurtainUp
March 26th, 2017

"Ruhl's current play, directed by Rebecca Taichman, invites us on a journey taking wildly roaming paths—erotic, humorous, mystical and sanctimonious. There's what you see and then there is what is really going on...The cast is praiseworthy. However, the basic probing of love and sexuality in 'How to Transcend a Happy Marriage' has already been explored years ago—just without Sarah Ruhl's jigsaw puzzle of metaphors and mysticism."
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Front Row Center
March 21st, 2017

“A predictable first act, with all the dots connected. Any connection to anything-at-all is lost in the second act…The only character to whom we relate is the extraordinary Marisa Tomei…Her monologues begin as intriguing exposition and eventually explode into majestic arias that Tomei handles understated skill…But these flashes of light and intrigue are like fireworks that flare and then disappear...We don’t care a whit for anyone, with the exception of George.”
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New York Theater
March 24th, 2017

"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."
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C
March 20th, 2017

"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."
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Theatre's Leiter Side
March 24th, 2017

“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.”
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Times Square Chronicles
April 1st, 2017

"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."
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The Clyde Fitch Report
March 23rd, 2017

"The play looked a good deal like a young playwright discoursing brashly on what she thought she’d wisely concluded about the older generation. Not a mid-career playwright discoursing brashly on the same...To director Rebecca Taichman’s credit, she stages the sex play well...Every one of the eight actors — with Taichman dispatching them well — gives the playwright what she wants. It’s not their fault that what Ruhl wants is sometimes predictable, sometimes obscure."
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B
March 20th, 2017

"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."
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The Huffington Post
March 20th, 2017

"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."
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The Wrap
March 20th, 2017

"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."
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T
April 6th, 2017

"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."
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Broadway & Me
April 5th, 2017

“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.”
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Newsday
March 20th, 2017

"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."
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T
April 5th, 2017

“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.”
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NJ.com
March 23rd, 2017

"Brings to mind John Updike's classic partner-swapping novel 'Couples' with a hearty dose of magic realism. This is not a successful recipe...Along the way, the gifted and likable cast gets squandered...Ruhl takes a wide-eyed approach to the ensuing sexual shenanigans—boy, millennials sure are edgy—that may compel even the nonagenarians in the audience to roll their eyes. In the second act, the playwright throws everything at the wall and nothing sticks."
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Off Script with Dan Dwyer
April 23rd, 2017

"Doesn’t quite transcend Ruhl's habit of churning out narratively challenged and thematically ambitious work...At intermission, I was actually curious what would happen to these nice people, but Act 2 loses narrative focus and meanders philosophically all over the intellectual landscape. Ruhl’s writing, it seems, defaults to her head rather than her heart...Taichman directs, establishing a disarming mood in Act 1 and bringing as much coherence as possible to a dramatically unsatisfying Act 2."
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Z
March 21st, 2017

“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.”
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Off Off Online
March 27th, 2017

"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."
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More Than The Play Blog
April 16th, 2017

“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."
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Village Voice
April 26th, 2017

“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.”
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