The Komisar Scoop Reports & Analysis by Investigative Journalist Lucy Komisar

Friday, May 19, 2017

Most everything is right about “The Play That Goes Wrong”

Filed under: Theater — Lucy Komisar @ 10:49 pm

By Lucy Komisar

One of the stars of this play is not human. It’s the set for the riotous slapstick comedy put on by (real) British actors about a disastrous production of “The Murder at Haversham Manor” by a fake university drama society. Sometimes slapstick is silly, but this is exceedingly clever.

Jonathan Sayer, Henry Lewis, Dave Hearn, Greg Tannahill as the murder victim on chaise and Charlie Russell in window, photo Alastair Muir.

It’s co-written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields who also act in the play. Director Mark Bell does brilliantly at making everything go so wonderfully effortlessly wrong.

The fake plot is a 1920s murder mystery set in the English countryside. Don’t think this is Agatha Christie. The first actor falls on entrance. Others try to get onstage, but they can’t unlock the door. Then there’s the excellent Greg Tannahill, playing Charles Haversham, a dead man whose outstretched hand keeps getting stepped on. When one character sits on the body, the hand pushes him away.

Jonathan Sayer as the butler Perkins pouring liquor down the phone, photo Jeremy Daniel.

And so it goes. The aptly named (real) Mischief Theatre presents a collection of glorious theatrical pratfalls that erupt in fast succession. The servant Perkins (Jonathan Sayer) spills scotch in a phone upstairs and it come out a phone downstairs. Cecil Haversham (Dave Hearn), the corpse’s brother, drinks paint thinner proffered as liquor and spits it out on the body, which jumps. Hearn is very good as the hammy goofy brother.

Inspector Carter (Henry Shields), very British with vest and mustache, directs that the body be placed on a carrier, but it rips and two fellows walk out with just the side rods. The body creeps offstage.

Actors take the wrong props and ignore cues. There’s a grandfather clock big enough for someone to hide in. Players start repeating dialogue, and the farce falls into hysteria.

But as good as the actors are, an indispensable player is the set, by designer Nigel Hook, in which an upstairs room is held up by a post. As actors bump into it, the upper floor sags, till the point where actors and furniture up there are sliding dangerously.

Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, Henry Shields and Dave Hearn, photo Jeremy Daniel.

Also, watch the escutcheon over the door; never let a good escutcheon go to waste.

And by the way, the idea is that the inspector will figure out who killed Charles Haversham. Better call in Agatha.

Sophisticated farce is a terrific art form. I didn’t like the physical fight between two women both wanting to play one of the fake play roles. Sexist, I thought. But otherwise, I never stopped laughing.

The Play That Goes Wrong.” Written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields; directed by Mark Bell. Mischief Theatre at Lyceum Theatre, 149 West 45th Street, New York City. 212-239-6200. Opened April 2, 2017. 5/19/17.

 

 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Andy Karl gives charismatic appeal to quirky musical “Groundhog Day”

Filed under: Theater — Lucy Komisar @ 7:32 pm

By Lucy Komisar

Andy Karl as Phil Connors, the TV weatherman, photo Joan Marcus.

New York TV weatherman Phil Connors (Andy Karl) is in Punxsutawney, PA, to cover the annual groundhog-comes-out-of-his-burrow-and-sees-or-doesn’t-see-his-shadow day. If he sees it, there will be six more weeks of winter. (But how do they know?) It’s a pretty silly made-for-media fake news story. With a made for TV weatherman.

But the book by Danny Rubin, music and lyrics by Tim Minchin, is more clever than you would expect. And direction by Matthew Warchus is full of canny surprises. Andy Karl as Phil has great panache and presence and a good singing voice, too.

Phil hates shallow minds. They’re dumb, superstitious. There’s nothing more depressing than small town USA. (This goes over big with a New York audience.) But on the other hand, why is this sophisticated and occasionally snide, self-involved, hitting-on-women TV guy covering the story? The plot only touches the edges of the mind-numbing shallowness of television.

Andy Karl as Phil, center, and cast, photo Joan Marcus.

The local folks are appealing, and good dancers, including in the “Small Town, USA” number. When the shoot is over, Connors wants to get out, but a snow storm closes the roads. He asks, “Isn’t there a fast lane for emergencies and celebrities?” (I already don’t like him.)

No. Repair to a bar. Hit on his attractive associate producer (the point associate is made) Rita (Barrett Doss), whose name he keeps getting wrong and who is uninterested. And so to bed.

When Phil gets up the next morning to meet his crew and drive home, it turns out it’s the same day. Everything is repeating. And again the next day. So, will he learn anything from the fantasy? Not at first.

Andy Karl as Phil, getting up again (and again) in the motel, photo Joan Marcus.

He is bored, depressed. He goes to a bar and drinks a bottle, shot glass by shot glass. He asks, “How would you like it if you were stuck in one place and every day was the same and there was nothing you could do about it.” It’s a profound statement about the lives of millions, but he doesn’t get it.

One of his drinking companions says, “I can barely walk; I’ll get the truck.” Phil realizes there won’t be consequences.  “We could eat/drink anything and not get fat.” Because the next day will start fresh. There’s a terrific scene of the three drunk guys driving a pickup truck through streets made of lit houses carried sideways by the cast. (Brilliant idea by set designer Rob Howell.) The cops arrest him for drunk driving, but the next morning instead of in a jail cell, he is back in the motel. Now he is loving it.

He gets an idea. There’s an attractive woman named Nancy who has passed in previous iterations. He goes up to her and asks where she went to high school. Lincoln High School, English teacher Mrs. Walsh. The next new/same day, he approaches her to say, we went to Lincoln, etc. He uses the line to hit on her. His fantasy is to have women with no consequences. Nancy will sing, “In a world run by men, you take what you are given.” Hmm, a little feminism.

Andy Karl as Phil and Barrett Doss as Rita, photo Joan Marcus.

He is still trying for Rita. Doss has a good jazzy voice and creates an engaging character. She tells us, “I’d rather be lonely than sit on my fanny waiting for my prince to come. One day, some day he’ll come sweeping in and sweep me off of my feet. And spend the next four decades wanting to cheat on me.” The modern feminist woman!

When Phil comes on to her, she smacks him. He feels trapped, contemplates suicide. But, hey, this is Broadway, he will learn a few things. A few new beginnings follow. The only bad scene is a medical flashback about when Phil has eaten magic mushrooms and thinks he’s crazy. Dump it!

I hadn’t seen the film and didn’t expect to like this play, which seemed very hokey, but I did. It has terrific choreography by Peter Darling and the aforementioned great sets by Rob Howell, especially the cartoonish depictions of lit rows of houses. Director Matthew Warchus makes a play that you think is a made-for-TV sitcom into occasionally fascinating social commentary. The parts are greater than the whole. And again, it features the charismatic Andy Karl. But if you see it, okay to do it just once!

Groundhog Day.” Book by Danny Rubin, music and lyrics by Tim Minchin, directed by Matthew Warchus, choreographed by Peter Darling. August Wilson Theatre, 245 West 52nd Street, New York City. 877-250-2929. Opened April 17, 2017. 5/14/17.

Monday, May 15, 2017

“Anastasia” a fine colorful big-musical Russian Romanov princess fantasy

Filed under: Theater — Lucy Komisar @ 5:54 pm

By Lucy Komisar

Complex, fascinating and gorgeous, this fantasy tale of the young woman who might be the surviving daughter of Czar Nicholas of Russia is a colorful musical mystery with elegant singing, marvelous dancing and costumes that light up the stage.

With a book by Terrence McNally, music by Stephen Flaherty, and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, it features the top talents of Broadway. That goes for director Darko Tresnjak and choreographer Peggy Hickey, who have “big Broadway show” written all over them.

Derek Klena as Dmitry, Christy Altomare as Anya, photo Matthew Murphy.

A glittery Russian aristocrats ball is interrupted in 1917 by the red fire of the revolution. And soldiers with rifles marching the Czar and the Romanov family to their doom.

Ten years later in Leningrad, young Dmitry (the very appealing Derek Klena) has an idea to exploit the rumor that the Czar’s child, Anastasia, escaped the hail of bullets. The Dowager Empress (Mary Beth Peil), Nicholas’ mother, who was in Paris at the time, is desperate to find the girl, and whoever persuades her that the child is genuine will be rich. There are many pretenders.

Christy Altomare as Anya, and ghosts of the past, photo Matthew Murphy.

Dmitry and his friend Vlad (John Bolton) determine to find a likely young women and train and educate her about everything the young Anastasia would know.

And then, they find Anya (Christy Altomare) who has amnesia. Could she be Anastasia? Altomare has a sweet colorful singing voice and is a charmer. They take up abode in a ruined palace, with visual ghosts of the past, and as the snowy winter turns to spring, she will learn the family tree and stories. Aaron Rhyne’s projections are stunning, with lifelike onion domes and canals.

Ramin Karimloo as Gleb Vaganov, Christy Altomare as Anya, photo Matthew Murphy.

But Gleb Vaganov (Ramin Karimloo), an intelligence officer who happens to meet Anya, becomes attracted and suspicious. He will be her “Javert,” following the trail of this adventure.

Finally, Dmitry, Vlad and Anya take the train to Paris from the Finland Station. That place is famous, because Vladimir Lenin arrived there on his journey from Switzerland to Russia in April 1917.

In the play, Russian aristocrats fleeing the Communists gather on the platform. The train moves through a striking landscape of trees. (Wonderful projections by Rhyne.) But the three are identified and jump off the train before the Polish border. The musical is inspired by the movie “Anastasia,” and parts like this are truly cinematic.

Christy Altomare as Anya in Paris, photo Matthew Murphy.

Of course, they get to Paris, viewed in Rhyne’s gorgeous videos, including Pont Alexander III with the Grand Palais in the background. That most ornate bridge in the city was named after Anastasia’s grandfather, the husband of the grandmother Anya must persuade she is kin.

“Paris holds the key,” done by the three refugees (which of course they were) is a smash. Now women have marcelled hair and everyone dances the Charleston.

John Bolton as Vlad, Caroline O’Connor as Lily and cast at the Neva Club, photo Matthew Murphy.

The Russian expats enjoy life at the Neva Club, and do a terrific, “Let’s live in the land of yesterday” to 1920s music. Countess Lily (the wonderfully talented Caroline O’Connor) does a show-stopping “Once I had a palace….” And with Vlad, who turns out to be an old love, the tongue-in-cheek “The Countess and the Common Man.”

But the dancing and costumes at the Paris Opera – and throughout the show — are not common at all. Chapeaux to choreographer Peggy Hickey and costume designer Linda Cho.

Christy Altomare as Anya, Derek Klena as Dmitry, photo Matthew Murphy

The story itself is rather hokey. Will Anya persuade the lonely Dowager Empress she is her granddaughter? The Romanovs were real people, and it’s a challenge to finesse the truth. So, forget that part. With Klena and Altomare, both in fine voice, this production enchants.

Anastasia.” Book by Terrence McNally, music by Stephen Flaherty, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens. Directed by Darko Tresnjak, choreographed by Peggy Hickey. Broadhurst Theatre, 235 West 44th Street, New York City. 212-239-6200. Opened April 24, 2017. 5/15/17.

“A Doll’s House, Part 2” takes 19th-century play to funny, clever feminist present

Filed under: Theater — Lucy Komisar @ 1:13 pm

By Lucy Komisar

Fifteen years after she slammed the door, Nora returns to Torvald’s house as the Betty Friedan of 19th-century Norway. As created by Laurie Metcalf from the script by Lucas Hnath, she is smart, witty, sarcastic, tough and likely to make women cheer. I did!

Laura Metcalf as Nora, photo Brigitte Lacombe.

Hnath’s clever, funny, inventive sequel to the Ibsen play is told in the modern vernacular. Director Sam Gold’s pitch-perfect modern day time machine looks back about 140 years with a feminist sensibility.

And it is nuanced. The evil it attacks is the institution, not the people. The minimalist set has just some chairs and plaster walls and a small table with a tissue box, as if it could be of any time.

Nora (the brilliant funny modernly acerbic Laura Metcalf) arrives dressed fashionably in blue and tapestry with a fur stole.

When she asks Anne Marie (always excellent Jayne Houdyshell) who has taken care of Nora’s children all these years, how she thinks she survived, Anne Marie reflects a maid’s class/servant attitude.

She says if Nora, didn’t struggle, she was “lucky.” Nora points out that she doesn’t say, “clever or resourceful.” “Lucky,” because one expects people who leave their families to be punished.

Jayne Houdyshell as Anne Marie and Laurie Metcalf as Nora, photo Brigitte Lacombe.

Asked to guess what Nora did for a living, the nanny comes up with actress, dancer, something to do with clothes, then lawyer, banker. . .

In fact, Anne Marie would explain later, that she had left her own child to work for the Helmers, because the realistic alternatives for her were to be a factory worker or a prostitute.

But Nora, of another class, made a success of writing and speaking against marriage. She tells her audiences how marriage says to women “I own you,” how she no longer sees a reason for marriage because it is cruel and destroys people’s lives. She has a nice house and has had a succession of lovers.

That is revealed in a terrific interaction with the very traditional Anne Marie, who takes Torvald’s side.

Nora has returned to tie up some loose ends. A judge, whose wife left him after reading her book, found out Nora’s husband never filed the divorce papers and threatens to expose her as a married woman. She says, “I have conducted myself as a married woman” in ways that is not allowed. She says, for example, “I have signed contracts.” So, she needs Torvald to file the divorce papers.

Chris Cooper as Torvald and Laurie Metcalf as Nora, photo Brigitte Lacombe.

Well, it wasn’t all perfect for him, either. Torvald (Chris Cooper) accuses her of being manipulative, saying she loved him when she wanted money.

He says that she made him to feel like a wimp or weak. He tells her, “You left me and the kids. I wish I’d left you.” They have a modern fight.

Turns out he has told everyone she was sick, in a sanatorium, and then died. She reminds him that for her to file for divorce now, she would have to reveal the truth, which would ruin his reputation. A banker, he could be fired for fraud. Torvald says, do it.

Anne Marie is not sisterly: “Fuck you, Nora….You have zero gratitude. I raised your kids.” She turns down Nora’s offer to pay for a house of her own. Too late in life.

Laurie Metcalf as Laura and Condola Rashad as daughter Emmy, photo Brigitte Lacombe

Nora also tries to deflect the marriage ideas of her daughter, Emmy, now a young woman, who Condola Rashad plays as a character out of a modern sitcom. Emmy doesn’t like a future where everyone is leaving each other, never finding a home.

Will Nora make her understand how women suffered from the limits of marriage as an institution?

Torvald has gone out to his office, and when he returns he shows Nora a book he picked up. “Anne Marie told me you write these little books.”

Nora retorts, “Little!”

It’s the novelized story of their marriage. Still, he wants her back. No spoiler here, but Nora predicts a time when everyone will be freer.

I loved this play!

A Doll’s House, Part 2.” Written by Lucas Hnath, directed by Sam Gold. Golden Theatre, 252 West 45th St, New York City. (212) 239-6200. Opened April 27, 2017; closes July 30, 2017. 5/12/17.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

“The Little Foxes” are the capitalist killers of Hellman’s riveting family conflict

Filed under: Theater — Lucy Komisar @ 6:12 pm

By Lucy Komisar

Lillian Hellman’s 1939 play is a family battle where the antagonists are class and gender. The title comes from the Song of Solomon in the King James Bible: “Take [from] us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.” The Manhattan Theatre Club, under the direction of Daniel Sullivan, gives it a stunning production.

Michael McKean as Ben Hubbard, Darren Goldstein as Oscar Hubbard, Laura Linney as their sister Regina Giddens, David Alford as Mr. Marshall, photo Joan Marcus.

The place is a small Alabama town in 1900. The little foxes are the members of the Hubbard family of shopkeepers who lust after the pedigree and money of the cotton aristocrats. They attempt to move up the social and economic ladder through marriage, one to the naïve daughter of a plantation owner, the other to a banker. They will indeed spoil what they touch.

The brothers Oscar (Darren Goldstein, good as the immoral climber) and Ben Hubbard (Michael McKean, who shows a man who willingly goes along) are anxious to get a Chicago investor, Mr. Marshall (David Alford) to partner with them in a cotton mill. The mill will make them a lot of money and also get them closer to the cotton aristocracy.

They are on the same page as Marshall. He wants cheap labor. “Play them off against each other, make them hate each other.” He means blacks and whites. There are no strikes as in Massachusetts. That sits fine with the Hubbards, whose store makes money by cheating “nigras.”

Laura Linney as Regine Giddens and Cynthia Nixon as Birdie Hubbard,
photo Joan Marcus.

The Hubbards have contempt for the aristocratic planters who were too “high-toned” to adapt. Brother Ben declares, “We took over their land, and their cotton and their daughter.” That would be Oscar’s wife Birdie (the very subtle and sensitive Cynthia Nixon), the naïve daughter of a planter. In Hellman’s story, these strivers are crude and nasty, to their spouses and to each other. Director Sullivan makes it clear they are mercantile thieves.

Marshall wants a $75,000 investment, and the brothers don’t have it. Their sister Regina (a brilliant Laura Linney) didn’t get any money from the family – that went to the boys. But she has a rich husband Horace Giddens (an avuncular Richard Thomas).

Richard Thomas as Horace Giddens, Michael McKean as Ben Hubbard, Darren Goldstein as Oscar Hubbard and Michael Benz as his son Leo, photo Joan Marcus.

Events take place in the drawing room of their home, with double doors with pediments, befitting a genteel southern elegance. Horace has been at John Hopkins hospital in Baltimore recovering from a heart condition and also getting some peace away from his predatory wife. Linney show Regina as a sophisticated manipulator.

Horace was away for five months, and she never visited. Regina gets their daughter Alexandra (Francesca Carpanini) to take the train to Baltimore to tell him how much his wife misses him and to bring him back. He has $88,000 in railroad bonds stashed in a bank safe deposit box. She needs him to invest in the mill. She is already dreaming of how to spend it – and it doesn’t involve saying in Alabama.

Showing the moral opposite, Birdie, whose grandfather was governor, is shy giddy, giggly, with a high-pitched voice that speaks timidity. She is the real aristocrat. She married Oscar because he was nice to her. Now he hits her, and she drinks. Nixon is a superb Birdie, distraught, frightened, even slightly understated as if she didn’t want to take up too much space.

Darren Goldstein as Oscar Hubbard and Michael Benz as his son Leo, photo Joan Marcus.

In this play, even though the men have the power, they are almost caricatures. The most interesting figures are the women, portrayed by Linney and Nixon in unforgettable fashion.

When Thomas returns, Regina accuses him of having had fancy women, but it turns out she hadn’t slept with him for ten years. She wants him to invest the money they need, but he won’t. Cruel and hard, she turns on him. Contemptuous, she taunts him that she married him for money. Linney erupts as a furious harridan.

Meanwhile, Oscar’s nasty nitwit son Leo (Michael Benz) who works at the bank, volunteers to his father that he has seen the bonds. We can predict what happens next, but not what happens after that. Hellman is a masterful story-teller.

Richard Thomas as Horace Giddens and Francesca Carpanini as his daughter Alexandra, photo Joan Marcus.

Horace’s clever deus ex machina is that with the $88G bonds, that he knows have been stolen, he will have his revenge. He won’t survive Regina’s duplicity, but will have the Hubbards destroy each other with the help of a little blackmail. In that family, the knives are out all around. And as his condition worsens, only his daughter cares.

Ben comments: “There are hundreds of Hubbards sitting in rooms like this throughout the country. All their names aren’t Hubbard, but they are all Hubbards and they will own this country some day.” The play is Hellman’s prescient comment on corrupt capitalism.

The Little Foxes.” Written by Lillian Hellman, directed by Daniel Sullivan. Manhattan Theatre Club at Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47th Street (Between Broadway & 8th Ave) New York City. (212) 239-6200. Opened April 19, 2017, closes July 2, 2017. 5/12/17.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

“Present Laughter” stars sublime Kevin Kline in delicious Noël Coward farce

Filed under: Theater — Lucy Komisar @ 1:14 am

By Lucy Komisar


Kevin Kline as Gary Essendine, photo Joan Marcus.

You can see why an ingénue, femme fatale and ex-wife are smitten with Garry Essendine, the self-absorbed hammy stage star played by Kevin Kline in Noël Coward’s delightfully funny and sophisticated 1943 play, “Present Laughter.” Because, so are we, smitten.

It is 1939 in London. Garry, 57 going on 37, lives in a stylish duplex apartment furnished with lots of modern art, books, a baby grand piano and a very idiosyncratic staff, including a dry, sardonic secretary, a dour Swedish cook and a laid-back butler. He is cosseted by his ex-wife, who helps manage his theatrical affairs, and he is targeted by women, whose advances he deplores and enjoys.

Coward is writing about a world he knows, especially when he complains about plays that are superficial, pseudo-intellectual poppycock. Like “Present Laughter?” Is he deliciously spoofing himself? But who would deprive audiences of this charming amusement! And of Kline’s unforgettable comic performance as a man who never completely grew up. Moritz von Stuelpnagel’s direction is light and tongue-in-cheek.

Kristine Nielsen as Monica, Kate Burton as Liz, and Kevin Kline as Garry, photo Joan Marcus.

Garry is still upstairs sleeping when Daphne (Tedra Millam), a young woman of 24, comes giggling out of a spare room and demands breakfast from servants who have seen this before. She is there because she “lost her latchkey” and couldn’t go home after the party the night before.

When Garry descends the stairs in his silk dressing gown, of which he has a few dozen, he will try to persuade her that, of course he loves her, but their terrific conversation last night – well, he’s really too told for her, and….

Monica Reed, his secretary arrives, in the person of Kristine Nielsen who does the smart quirky mugging for which she is famous. She remarks about the “eager young debutantes ready to lose their latchkeys for you.” He twists and grimaces when he hears what he told the girl. “You weren’t on the stage,” he is reminded. And he replies, “I’m always acting.”

Cobie Smulders as Joanna and Kevin Kline as Garry, photo Joan Marcus.

The plot swirls about a second “lost my latchkey” lady, the predatory Joanna (a very good and worldly Cobie Smulders) who is married to Garry’s producer Henry (Peter Francis James) and shows up one evening in a swanky low-cut gown to seduce the star, who she admittedly has lusted after for years.

He accuses her of being a scalp hunter, a collector. She says, “I could cry now if I only had the technique.” You get the sense Coward is happily skewering people he knows.

Turns out she’s been having an affair with Garry’s director Morris (Reg Rogers), who seems nervous every time we see him. That is helped by Rogers’ distinctive embellished way of enunciating. And then there’s the crazy young playwright, Roland (Bhavesh Patel), who has finagled his way into getting Garry to read his script and is alternately fawning and threatening.

I can’t forget Miss Erickson (Eileen Harvey), a bizarre hard-faced Swede with an exaggerated accent you could cut with her cook’s knife.

Kevin Kline as Garry, Kate Burton as Liz, photo Joan Marcus.

The only clearly adult person in the group is ex-wife Liz (the cool, intelligent Kate Burton) who is trying to save Garry from himself. Liz, now in her 40s, was an actress when he got her to give up acting and start writing. Quite a compliment from the playwright.

She left Garry when she couldn’t take his unruly behavior, but she is affectionately watching over him. When she returns from a Paris trip, she brings him an elegant white dressing gown. But learning of his latest escapade, she tells him, “You have gone too far.” She feels she is in a French farce.

(Perhaps an effort to be lighthearted during the war, nothing is said on her return from the continent about the fast gathering storm. Britain would declare war against Germany that year.)

Turns out Garry’s past and present ladies and Roland have bought tickets on the ship that will take him to a performance tour in Africa. He is terrified. Then capable Liz takes over for a lovely dénouement. And in fact, nothing goes “too far” in this perfectly calibrated, splendid, crazy, high-spirited, yes, farce.

Present Laughter.” Written by Noël Coward, directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel. St. James Theatre 246 West 44th Street, New York City. 877-250-2929. Opened April 5, 2017; closes July 2, 2017. 5/9/17.

 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

“How to Transcend a Happy Marriage” satirizes couples’ attempts to be cool

Filed under: Theater — Lucy Komisar @ 10:53 am

By Lucy Komisar

Sarah Ruhl satirizes a midlife crisis that turns two ordinary and apparently happy couples in their forties to group sex. They have been inspired by a three-some of 20-somethings and think they might be missing something. So they fall into a pretty joyless ménage à quatre. It’s funny, if not profound. And the cast is fine as schmoozy, nice folks getting into trouble with their “what are we missing that the young folks have?”

Omar Metwally as Paul, Marisa Tomei as George, Lena Hall as Pip, Austin Smith as David, and David McElwee as Freddie, photo Kyle Froman.

Ruhl adds some riffs about nature, vegetarianism, killing animals and the discovery that fantasies that come from group thinking may create real world problems. Director Rebecca Taichman handles the show tongue-in-cheek, so you know this adult fantasy is not really happening.

The adults are being inspired by Pip (Lena Hall), a sort of punk flower child, and her companions David (Austin Smith) and Freddie (David McElwee) who seem like the kind of guys who lay around and pretend they are cool. All in their 20s moving to 30s without having accomplished much.

The carcass of a deer hangs in the living room. Pip, a former vegetarian now slaughters goats. But there is still guilt over animal killing.

George, short for Georgia (Marisa Tomei), asks Pip, “The first time you killed deer…What was it like?” Pip replies more like a housewife than a hunter: “She lasted the whole winter. If you opened my refrigerator, it might seem really gross.”

Segue to guilt over sex. We are celebrating polyamorous women and learn that the fun of adultery is the erotic tension around the secret.

Marisa Tomei as George and Lena Hall as Pip, photo Kyle Froman.

And then there’s the inconvenience of being a normal family. Jenna (Naian González Norvind), the daughter of Jane (Robin Weigert) and Michael (Brian Hutchison), both in their 40s, is shocked and dresses them down (apt choice of words) when she arrives home after a boring party to see her mother completely undressed. She will run away.

After doing the sex part, the middle-aged ladies are really getting into nature; they go out with bows and arrow. George shoots a deer. She gets arrested: “I didn’t know you needed a permit.” Except it turns out she has killed a dog. Tomei is perfect as a naïf desperate to be trendy: “I’m worried. Paul will hate me for being in jail.”

Jenna has taken refuge at the home of a friend who’s in the Christian Alt Right.

George, declaring “we had a massive sevensome,” is corrected by Paul, “No George. We had a massive foursome.” They consider that they might have to disguise their animal natures.

But it doesn’t end all badly. Jenna’s story of her parents’ behavior gets her into Bennington.

How to Transcend a Happy Marriage.” Written by Sarah Ruhl, directed by Rebecca Taichman. Lincoln Center at Mitzi Newhouse Theatre, 150 West 65th Street, New York City. 212 239-6200. Opened March 20, 2017; closes May 7th, 2017. 5/2/17.

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