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Playwright Sarah Ruhl’s newest play , HOW TO TRANSCEND A HAPPY MARRIAGE, doesn’t quite transcend her habit of churning out narratively challenged and thematically ambitious work, but it’s an improvement, especially on last year’s , inert THE OLDEST BOY, which was also staged at the Mitzi Newhouse at Lincoln Center. Two, hetero, middle-aged, best-friend couples (for those of us old enough think Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice) end up in a group-grope under the spell of a young, free-spirited, seductress (could she be a witch?) and her two live-in male lovers. They are discovered in the act by the teenage daughter of one of the couples. That’s Act 1. At intermission, I was actually curious what would happen to these nice people, but Act 2 loses narrative focus and meanders philosophically all over the intellectual landscape. Ruhl’s writing, it seems, defaults to her head rather than her heart. Still, MARRIAGE plucks an emotional cord with the question “how do you love?” and benefits immensely from an excellent cast led by the appealing Marisa Tomei. Rebecca Taichman directs, establishing a disarming mood in Act 1 and bringing as much coherence as possible to a dramatically unsatisfying Act 2.

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