Biology, Theories And Two Strong Women Guide Us Through “The How And The Why” At New Jewish Theatre

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Sophia Brown and Amy Loui begin to feel each other out during “The How And The Why” at New Jewish Theatre. Photo: Eric Woolsey

Evolutionary biology is not my idea of a strong subject for a play. Nor are lengthy discussions about menstruation. But somehow two remarkable actresses and one strong director bring Sarah Treem’s unusual one-act to satisfying fruition with the New Jewish production of “The How And The Why.”

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Progess is made between Amy Loui and Sophia Brown in the New Jewish Theatre production of “The How And The Why.” Photo: Eric Woolsey

Amy Loui is an established professor and researcher, Zelda Kahn, who has studied women’s biological make up and written several theories- including The Grandmother Hypothesis- which has turned the world of science on its ear. Into her office walks graduate student Rachel Hardeman played by Sophia Brown. It looks like a mentoring moment but things take a bizarre turn and we learn more about the emotional connection between these two strong willed ladies.

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Amy Loui pleads with Sophia Brown in the New Jewish Theatre production of “The How And The Why.” Photo: Eric Woolsey

Despite some lofty theories and loftier language being thrown around, we get the basic hint of why the inevitable clash of ideologies erupt into pain, passion and pathos. At a local bar the bonding and healing begins and we become privy to even more exacting secrets that have helped shape these two women.

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Amy Loui and Sophia Brown in a scene from “The How And The Why” at New Jewish Theatre. Photo: Eric Woolsey

Local playwright, actress and director Nancy Bell has directed these two wonderful actresses into a taut, if somewhat wordy script. Even ladies of such renown on local stages as Amy Loui and Sophia Brown found it just a bit tongue-tying at times to spout the scientific jargon as the 90 minute one act compounded the action. Thank goodness Nancy Bell was able to put the emphasis on the humanity of the ladies and their unique situation rather than focusing too much on the biological inferences.

Peter and Margery Spack have outdone themselves with a very realistic set design showcasing the professor’s office in Cambridge and then a local dive in Boston. All of it is surrounded by a Calder-esque set of mobiles depicting the night sky, perhaps biological symbols as well, on both sides of the center-focused thrust stage. Michael Sullivan’s lights perfectly match both locations and the Felia Davenport costumes are marvelous helping to showcase the difference between the two women.

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Amy Loui and Sophia Brown discover their differences during the New Jewish Theatre production of “The How And The Why.” Photo: Eric Woolsey

“The How And The Why” could stand a bit of trimming despite the nifty cat and mouse game the two play throughout. But the excellent performances and strong direction make it a worthy addition to this young 2018 theatre season. Catch it at the New Jewish Theatre through February 11th. Give them a call at 314-442-3283 for tickets or more information.

 

 

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