Scientific Method

   For its 2014-2015 main-stage season, the Theatre at Arts Garage is providing a voice to an often-underrepresented subset of theatre artists—female playwrights. Dubbed “A Celebration of Women’s Voices,” the season includes three new works from some of today’s top female writers.

Playwright Sarah Treem

   The season kicked off on Friday, November 7, with Sarah Treem’s The How and The Why. Onstage through November 30, this two-hander revolves around the budding and complicated relationship of two female scientists, Zelda and Rachel. Zelda is an acclaimed evolutionary biologist who welcomes Rachel, an up-and-coming science graduate student, into her office to discuss their shared experiences and intertwined pasts. Though the production boasts feminist and female-focused themes, Treem’s perspicacious dialogue and two strong performances make The How and The Why a must-see, especially for fans of emerging theater.

   As there are only two characters, this play is incredibly taxing from an acting standpoint. Thankfully, both leads rise to the occasion. As Zelda, Laura Turnbull is ballsy and relatable—despite her character’s vast knowledge of evolutionary science and intimidating vocabulary. Turnbull serves up a natural bravado that is clearly a result of her character’s decades-long fight to pave her way in a male-dominated field. Pair that with an innate tenderness towards her fellow cast mate, and you have a believable, fully formed character.

Elizabeth price and Laura Turnbull in The How and The Why. Photo by Amy Pasquantonio

   As the younger, more naive Rachel, Elizabeth Price is equally talented, if not quite as self-assured. Price imbues Rachel with a slightly neurotic energy that allows her to find her grove within her character’s psyche but also makes Rachel the least sympathetic of the pair. She bombards Zelda with accusations that, while warranted, sting with veracity. The result is a vivid depiction of a young adult straining for love, approval and intimacy.

   These two extraordinary performances would not be possible if not for the thoughtful script by Treem. A writer for such television hits as House of Cards and In Treatment, Treem understands how to build tension through dialogue and use underlining wants to create relatable situations—even if the subject at hand is menopause. Her voice is absolutely one worth celebrating, and her theatrical prowess illustrates the immense need for more female playwrights.

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