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.
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.
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
Images courtesy of HOW TO TRANSCEND A HAPPY MARRIAGE
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