The Theatre at Arts Garage opened its production of Sarah Treem’s The How and the Why on November 7, 2014.
Two brilliant women scientists, mother and daughter, meet for the first time on the eve of a national conference. Both are evolutionary biologists who share a zeal for science and a bold, contrarian approach to their male-dominated field. As they struggle to find the connection that any mother and daughter cherishes most, the truth about their history and relationship unfolds. From the writer/producer of television hits like House of Cards and In Treatment comes this smart and compelling new play about science, family and survival of the fittest.
Margaret Ledford directed a cast that featured Elizabeth Price and Laura Turnbull.
John Thomason wrote for Florida Theater On Stage:
The How and the Why is, though a goodly portion of Act One, inherently difficult to follow. Treem, whose television writing credits have delved thoughtfully into politics and therapy in shows like House of Cards and In Treatment, dives just as deeply into the academic lexicon of evolutionary biology... The staggering amount of line memorization alone is remarkable; that both actors manage to speak dialogue like this as if they’ve been students of evolutionary biology for decades elevates the performances to the sublime.
But if the first act lacks in emotion what it gains in brains, the show makes up for this imbalance in the second act… It’s as riveting as the first act was heady…
Turnbull’s work is as nuanced and reactive as ever, even when a couple of those impossibly intricate lines slip away from her. She is the more experienced of the two actors, but newcomer Price, a recent acting graduate from FAU whose credits include university productions of Bonnie & Clyde and August: Osage County, is every bit her equal. Both actors expertly navigate their characters’ ever-changing dynamic, from rivals to colleagues to family…
On the downside, Timothy Watson’s scenic design is merely acceptable, and only minimally realized... As for the play itself, Treem doesn’t know how to end it, so that instead of sending us home with its most moving moment, the play peters toward a vague anticlimax.
But any woman who has ever struggled to reconcile family and career, or been forced to jump workplace hurdles just because she was born with an extra X chromosome, will see themselves reflected onstage, engaging in a conversation this country needs to have, and performed with unfailing smarts and compassion. If you’re a man in the audience, you’ll see how your better halves live, and you might consider the privilege you were born into.
Rod Stafford Hagwood wrote for The Sun-Sentinel:
The play has the whiplash pace and serried drama of a first-class TV show, which is no wonder since it was written by Sarah Treem, who has all kinds of hits by her hand, including Showtime's "The Affair" and Netflix's "House of Cards."
Her urgent dialogue keeps the audience riveted, thanks in no small part to precise direction from Margaret Ledford, through reams of bio-babble and lab lingo for two hours (including a 15-minute intermission). That is no small feat, but here the acting is so carefully calibrated and beautifully nuanced that watching the emotions cast varying shadows over the faces of the actors is absorbing in the first act and stunning in the second.
Zelda (Laura Turnbull) and Rachel (Elizabeth Price) are brilliant scientists. From the start, the unease hints to a connection between these two, aside from their both being women in a male-dominated field. The grist between the two goes further than their generational differences and opposing thoughts on feminism… There is a delicate relationship matrix set up here, in which power between Rachel and Zelda keeps slipping, sliding and shifting. So what if all the jagged ends break into loose shards at the end? Everything before that is just plain delicious.
The Theatre at Arts Garage production of The How and the Why plays through November 30, 2014.