How to Transcend a Happy Marriage
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Theater review by David Cote
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.
The high point of the show is a spontaneous orgy described in a lovely monologue by married Latin teacher George (Marisa Tomei). Said activity is initiated by a trio that’s younger than our married, middle-aged protagonists; let’s call them Magical Millennials. A waifish Lena Hall, Austin Smith and David McElwee make up the scruffy thruple. The rest of the plot is angsty, life-altering fallout from the torrid “sevensome.”
Ruhl adds surreal touches and more poetic digressions, but the action resolves in a slight and predictable message: It can be hard to square sexual freedom with being domestic and raising kids. 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.
Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater (at Lincoln Center). By Sarah Ruhl. Directed by Rebecca Taichman. With Lena Hall, Brian Hutchison, David McElwee, Omar Metwally, Naian González Norvind, Austin Smith, Marisa Tomei, and Robin Weigert. Running time: 1hr 50mins. One intermission. Through May 7.
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