‘How to Transcend a Happy Marriage’ Tackles Polyamory

The Producing Unit Presents Sarah Ruhl’s Play

Sarah Ruhl

John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Sarah Ruhl

Award-wining playwright Sarah Ruhl is known for smart, timeless storytelling with a modern sensibility. This week, area acting company The Producing Unit will perform a reading of Ruhl’s new play, How to Transcend a Happy Marriage, directed by Peter Frisch.

The “happy marriage” in the title suggests a “traditional” marriage — the viability of which is called into question when two couples at a dinner party discuss the appeal of a polyamorous lifestyle, a topic inspired by a new acquaintance, Pip, who has two partners. Pip and her companions join the party, and the real-world implications of non-monogamy are put on display.

Ruhl’s play is a conversation about traditionally accepted romantic choices and how their structure misaligns with those of our primitive ancestors, who, consistently throughout history — whether for pleasure, procreation, or support in raising a family — accepted polygamy (or “open relationships”) as a productive social structure. How to Transcend brings this discussion into current focus with characters who palpate the lines of physical, emotional, and spiritual connection.

Director Frisch said, “In order to function well in the institution of marriage and the raising of children, what parts of our animal nature do we sacrifice? … Ruhl’s play suggests that our sacrifices are significant and debilitating.” Said performer Ivy Vahanian, “This piece is so perfect for so many in Santa Barbara — the forgotten mass of couples with children that have essentially [forfeited] a sense of self and sensuality for the sake of our kids. … The play pokes holes in society’s edges and speaks to our more primitive selves.”

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How to Transcend a Happy Marriage runs Friday-Saturday, September 28-29, 8 p.m., at Center Stage Theater (751 Paseo Nuevo). Call (805) 963-0408 or see centerstagetheater.org.