The How and the Why Review – A Meeting of the Minds

Viviana Faye Vivana and Andrea Nitolli Kelly in THE HOW AND THE WHY - Photo by Maria Proios
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First produced in Princeton, New Jersey, in 2011, THE HOW AND THE WHY has made appearances in some big U.S. cities, including New York and Chicago. Based on the work of scientist Margie Profet, a biologist who theorized that menstruation clears the body of toxins, the piece examines the budding relationship between up-and-coming 28-year-old graduate student Rachel Hardeman (Faye Viviana) and Professor Zelda Kahn (Andrea Nittolli Kelly), an award-winning leader in the field who posited the “grandmother theory” early on in her quest for academic and scientific fame and honors. Rachel is just beginning her uphill battle to gain recognition, while Zelda is at the height of her career.

Faye Viviana and Andrea Nitolli Kelly – Photo by Maria Proios

Incisive author Sarah Treem has written a powerful and thought-provoking tale of two women at the opposite ends of their respective spectrums – and the fireworks that erupt when they meet. Zelda Kahn has triumphed over a science often bogged down in cutthroat academia – but at what cost? Rachel Hardeman, an angry and frustrated female, is just entering the fray. What will be her reward? In designing her theme, Treem pinpoints the “how” of human reproduction – but then asks the second more complex question of “why.’ Why are humans among the small handful of mammals who experience menstruation – and the only species who experience menopause?

Andrea Nitolli Kelly – Photo by Maria Proios

But playwright Treem has cunningly and carefully sandwiched a hidden dynamic into the ring as the two women begin to spar. Why has Rachel aimed all her punches at Zelda, a near stranger – or is she? The resulting conflict lends intensity and meaning to the story – on the surface a poke at the scientific community and its slow acceptance of change. But with deeper and more significant implications for each of the two brilliant scientists as truth rises to the surface.

Faye Viviana – Photo by Maria Proios

Skillfully directed by Allen Barton, THE HOW AND THE WHY is a fascinating study of strong women battling society in a survival-of-the-fittest moment. But it is also an emotional tale of the sacrifices which may be required to win and the long-term and unanticipated impact of those sacrifices on others. Kudos to Andrea Nittolli Kelly as the serene scientist with secrets; she hits the nail on the head. Executive producer Faye Viviana energetically projects the anxious, furious, and even manicky Rachel, but her portrayal sometimes feels more like an incensed teenager than a mature, thoughtful adult. The production team works well with minimalism, thanks to lighting designer Derrick McDaniels and stage manager Jeffery Sun. THE HOW AND THE WHY is an intriguing, somewhat cerebral study of the psyches of two people on the cusp of discovery. The production takes shots at feminism, science, academia, tough decisions, and unexpected repercussions.

Faye Viviana and Andrea Nitolli Kelly – Photo by Maria Proios

THE HOW AND THE WHY runs through February 20, 2022 with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 7 p.m. on Sundays. The Crimson Square Theatre Company performs in the Beverly Hills Playhouse, located at 254 South Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90211. Tickets are $30. To get more Information, contact staff via email. Reservations are available online.

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