Poor J.M. Barrie hasn’t had an easy time of it in the 21st century, with the notable exception of revivals of one-acts at the Mint Theater. The 2015 musical Finding Neverland, based on a film, focused on the dramatist’s struggle to find success after failure and the triumphant creation of Peter Pan, his classic 1904 play about the boy who won’t grow up—a play that, by the way, most of Finding Neverland’s audience had probably never seen, since nobody actually stages it. It’s known primarily through the musicalized version from the 1950s that starred Mary Martin, although the Royal National Theatre’s 1997 production, with Peter played by Daniel Evans, now artistic director of the Chichester Festival, and Ian McKellen as Captain Hook, showed the original is still a viable and glorious work.
The two WASPish couples at the center of Sarah Ruhl’s sexy/bonkers magical realist tragicomedy How to Transcend a Happy Marriage could have walked in from any number of other American plays. You know the type: they read The Atlantic, wear Joy Division T-shirts un-ironically, start each new year by reading a play, and fall over themselves to avoid the appearance of political incorrectness. Their living rooms are the familiar battlegrounds of bourgeois drama from Akhtar to Zola. The bloody goat carcass suspended over David Zinn’s set, though, makes it clear that we’re in the Ruhl-iverse, and little about the next two hours will be business-as-usual.