Sunday, March 27, 2016

"The How and The Why" ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG

Zelda, a evolutionary biologist in her fifties, is meeting Rachel, a twenty-eight year old scientist in the same field, for the first time. Rachel (Martha Brigham) is nervous and fidgety, clearly upset about something besides science, while Zelda (Nancy Carlin) is attempting to keep things on an even keel, despite issues of her own. It's not working. There are many layers at play here, not just the how and the why.

"How" and "Why" refer to the two underpinnings of science -- to find out how something works and then why it works that way. The how is easy. The why is where it gets interesting.

Sarah Treem's script was inspired by "Woman," a book by New York Times science writer Natalie Angier, and the character of Rachel is modeled after the real-life biologist Margie Profet, whose 1990s theories on menstruation, morning sickness and menopause led her to be ridiculed mercilessly by the mostly-male science community. 

Brigham's Rachel and Carlin's Zelda are entertaining to watch interact, and their discussions on science are the best parts of the show. There are holes in the script, however, especially when Zelda seems to have the answer at her fingertips whenever Rachel is stumped. The ending seems forced and probably unnecessary.

Joy Carlin's direction has us on the edge of our seats, even though we are looking at two acts of two women doing nothing but talk. What they talk about, and the world they both inhabit, keep us locked in to the end.


She San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "The How and the Why" Three Stars with a BANGLE OF PRAISE. This could be a Four Star play if Sarah Treem does what Rachel needs to do: tighten things up and get rid of the question marks. It's a terrific show which will get better.

"The How and the Why"
Aurora Theatre, in the Dashow Wing
2081 Addison Street, Berkeley
Through May 22

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