“The times they are a-changin'”
Sarah Treem’s The How and the Why is a perfect choice for the 2016 Women’s Theatre Festival, which features plays that are written by women, that are directed by women, that feature women, and that are focused on women’s issues. And this production scores on all counts.
Zelda (played by Rozlyn Sorrell) is a fifty-something distinguished professor of evolutionary biology at a prestigious university. Rachel (portrayed by Carly P. Jones), a twenty-something graduate student in the same field, visits her in her office. We very soon discern that Zelda is Rachel’s birth mother, who had given her up for adoption and that this is their first meeting.
We also learn that Zelda is famous for a ground-breaking theory called “the grandmother theory” and that Rachel also has a revolutionary theory that she had hoped to present at a conference that this university is hosting. She had initially been turned down, but a spot has opened up. Will she accept it when it is offered?
Both women’s theories deal with “the how” and “the why” of human evolution. And the action of the play gives insights into the various how’s and why’s in the lives of these women.
We witness the expected awkwardness of their meeting and the various dead ends that their conversation leads them into. And we are flies-on-the-wall as they discuss the minefield of gender-based office politics that plague ambitious women in academia. We learn about the women’s romantic attachments, past and present, along with a few secrets along the way. And it is worth noting that the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay (also a woman ahead of her time) figures into the story.
Carly P. Jones is superb as Rachel. We feel her tense, nervous apprehension as she meets her Zelda for the first time. We easily follow her into the various pitfalls during this meeting and sympathize with her abrupt changes in mood.
Rozlyn Sorrell is equally masterful as Zelda. The character is as refined and self-assured as we might expect a successful scholar to be. Yet she is not without her own vulnerabilities.
Diana Cameron McQueen has been gracing area stages with her acting skills. This is her directing debut, and it is a success.
Miyuki Su’s set captures the typical nuances of a professor’s office, while showing Zelda’s individuality. And the second act’s basement bar also has the correct ambiance.
The costumes are appropriate for the two well-defined individuals. As an added treat, The How and the Why supplies us with food for thought.
The Women’s Theatre Festival presents THE HOW AND THE WHY at 3 and 8 p.m. Aug. 27 and 3 p.m. Aug. 28 at Sonorous Road Productions, 209 Oberlin Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina 27605.
TICKETS: $16.52, with service fee.
BOX OFFICE: http://howandwhy.brownpapertickets.com/.
The How and the Why (2011 play): http://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=4522 ( Dramatists Play Service, Inc.) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_How_and_the_Why (Wikipedia).
Sarah Treem (Boston, MA-born playwright and screenwriter): http://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/35089 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2920012/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/sarahtreem (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/SarahTreem (Twitter page), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Treem (Wikipedia).
Diana Cameron McQueen (Raleigh, NC director): http://www.dianamcqueen.com/ (official website), https://www.facebook.com/dianamcqueen (Facebook page), and https://twitter.com/dianamcqueen (Twitter page).
Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.