The How and the Why
An especially complex relationship between mother and daughter is examined in Trinity Repertory Company's "The How and the Why," Sarah Treem's highly original, engaging drama about the roles and functions of women in evolution, science and philosophy.
"The How and the Why" is an intricate, stimulating production from director Shana Gozansky, a recent graduate of the Brown/Trinity Rep MFA Program, who combines the emotionally compelling, intelligent dialogue of playwright Treem (whose previous credits include the HBO series, "In Treatment") with two top-notch performances from Barrie Kreinik, who plays Rachel Hardeman, an ambitious, young scientist specializing in evolution, and Anne Scurria as Zelda Kahn, an evolutionary expert and Rachel's biological mother.
These two like-minded women meet for the first time in Zelda's office and awkwardly attempt to make polite conversation, discussing menial topics such as future travel plans and romantic interests. When they begin to talk about common areas of interest, such as their education, research and careers, Rachel and Zelda quickly realize how much they are eerily alike.
After several minutes of dense shop talk, Rachel reveals the details of an intriguing albeit rejected hypothesis that analyzes the evolution of menstruation. A fascinated Zelda then offers to pull some strings on her newfound daughter's behalf so that she may present her unfounded theory to fellow subject matter experts at an upcoming conference.
Although related by blood, Rachel and Zelda share and acknowledge a deeper intellectual connection that helps establish mutual respect yet is also cause for occasional hesitation and discomfort. Despite having just become acquainted, these women profess an inherent need for each other, which could just as easily be said of a mother and daughter who were not separated at birth.
Both actresses deliver earnest, solid performances, rife with palpable curiosity, tension and admiration. As Zelda, Scurria is sublime as the brilliant academic whose latest discovery is her maternal instinct, and Kreinik's portrayal of unyielding graduate student Rachel is equally subtle and assertive.
"The How and the Why" is a profound, sophisticated, thought-provoking drama that tackles a variety of complex, discussion-worthy topics and gives your brain a healthy workout.
"The How and the Why" continues through Dec. 30 at Trinity Repertory Company, 201 Washington Street, Providence. For info or tickets, call 401-351-4242 or visit Trinity Repertory Company's website.