HOW TO TRANSCEND A HAPPY MARRIAGE Script Review –Whimsy and Social Critique

Editor's Note-- Read an earlier Picture This Post review of a play by the same author- Sarah Ruhl.
TimeLine Theatre Company presents IN THE NEXT ROOM, OR THE VIBRATOR PLAY Review – electricity for bodies and souls


Known for plays like The Clean House and In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play), playwright Sarah Ruhl has always been characterized for her unique mixture of the quotidian and the fantastic. Her newest play, as published by Theatre Communications Group, offers many of the same delights of her other plays, while contemplating themes such as marriage, fidelity, polygamy, and humans’ baser animalistic nature. In this writer’s view, for fans of Ruhl’s writing and plays in general, How to Transcend a Happy Marriage is well worth reading.

Love explored in many forms in How to Transcend a Happy Marriage

 In How to Transcend a Happy Marriage, George (short for Georgia) and Paul are married and friends with Jane and Michael, also married. Over dinner at one couple’s home, Jane explains that a temp in her office named Pip is in a polygamous relationship with two other men. Both couples begin to humorously entertain the idea of being in a polygamous triad, noting the merits and drawbacks of it it practically, emotionally, mentally, and sexually. They ultimately decide to invite Pip and her partners over for New Year’s Eve in order to learn more about their arrangement, a gathering that serves as the catalyst for multiple startling revelations.


While the impetus for the play’s action would appear to be a discussion of polygamy, in fact, Ruhl uses this topic to explore humans’ needs for what the Greek’s identified as three forms of love: eros, agape, and storge. These words cover sexual love, an empathetic love of others, and familial love. Ultimately, Ruhl’s meditation on love and coupledom expands to advocate for finding other sources of love, friendship, and fulfillment outside of yourself and your partner as a way to strengthen your marriage or relationship. These ideas will likely gel with anyone who has strong friendships that feel more familial, or anyone familiar with the work of Belgian psychotherapist Esther Perel. Parsed through Ruhl’s tightly constructed play, with its genuinely drawn characters, the overall effect was quite moving for this reader.

Ruhl Sarah Photo credit John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Sarah Ruhl adds many fantastic layers

 While the previous paragraph may suggest a domestic comedy-drama set in dining rooms and living rooms, Ruhl adds many other elements to her piece that heightens it in intriguing, symbolic ways. For example, the play begins with a prologue in a forest in which Pip embraces the dead body of an animal she has just hunted. Ruhl includes this note for production teams: “If you cannot achieve this beautifully, go straight to Scene 1.” A similar magical moment late in the play involves the appearance of a bird, either through the creation of shadow, puppetry, or the help of a stage magician. These heightened, theatrical moments add different layers and perspectives to the story, ultimately deepening its symbolism and sticking with you long after you put the script down.

Bursting with symbolism, heart, and a clear-eyed look at the evolving definitions of a marriage, How to Transcend a Happy Marriage offers readers an engrossing and rewarding story about the importance of taking an expansive view of love, your partner, and the world.


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For more information about How to Transcend a Happy Marriage, or to purchase a copy for yourself, visit TCG Publishing’s webpage for How to Transcend a Happy Marriage


Brent Ervin-Eickhoff
Brent Ervin-Eickhoff is a director, writer, and educator based in Chicago, IL. He has worked with A Red Orchid Theatre, Silk Road Rising, Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co., Facility Theatre, and others as a director, assistant director, and in a variety of artistic capacities. Brent served as Co-Artistic Director and then Managing Director of Blue Goose Theatre Ensemble for three years, of which he was a founding member. His productions of Herculaneum and Bison? Bison. Bison! with Blue Goose were praised by critics and audiences. Bison? Bison. Bison! was selected and performed as part of Chicago’s Night Out in the Parks Initiative. An award-winning filmmaker, Brent’s films have screened as part of the Frog Baby Film Festival and Indianapolis 48 Hour Film Project. His play Puget Sound was workshopped as a staged reading as part of A Red Orchid Theatre’s Incubator Program in 2017. Brent graduated from Ball State University Magna Cum Laude with degrees in Directing and Theatre Education, as well as Ball State’s prestigious Academic Honors in Writing.

Read more about him and other Picture this Post writers on the Picture this Post Masthead.

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