Women’s Issues the Focus of “The How and The Why” at Penguin Rep


Photo: James J. Fenton Caption. Olivia Horton (Rachel), Gordana Rashovich (Zelda)

Female issues and the challenges of negotiating life versus career are the subject of an interesting and science-filled play “The How and The Why,” currently featured at Penguin Repertory Theatre.

The plot of the play centers on two evolutionary biologists whom, it is gradually revealed, are unknowingly mother and daughter. The pair meet at the senior professor’s office in Cambridge, Massachusetts and later in a dive bar in Boston and get to know each other and their theories on evolutionary biology, and how it relates to female issues like menstruation and menopause.

The younger, Rachel Hardeman, played by actress Olivia Horton has a hypothesis and the elder, Zelda Kahn, played by actress Gordana Rashovich, has personal knowledge of the information. What ensues is a revealing and dramatic dialogue between the two, with a strong personal twist when they realize that Zelda had conveived Rachel and gave her up to adoption six days after birth. The father was a noted person, but married.

Zelda and Rachel are able to discuss these women’s health issues and their personal involvement with great intensity and the play by Sarah Treem serves a great purpose. Her writing was based on two real women scientists who created theories on menopause and menstruation.

There are some laughs along the way as the women come to grips with their situation. It is the story, as author Sarah Treem says, of a family that is lost and found at its most fundamental level. Many surprising plot twists emerge along the way. The two women have excellents sets to work on and the dialogue keeps your interest the entire show.

I rate “The How and The Why” Three Out of Four Stars. Part of the proceeds are going to the Nyack Breast Center, says director Joe Brancato. Tickets at 845-786-2873 or penguinrep.org.