Friday, November 4, 2016

The How and the Why—CoHo Productions—NW Portland

Eden…and Beyond

This two-character, intense, drama is written by Sarah Treem and directed by Philip Cuomo (CoHo’s Producing Artistic Director).  It is playing at their space, 2257 NW Raleigh St. (be aware it is only street parking, so plan your time accordingly), through November 19th.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-220-2646.

On the surface, the story is about two scientists, one older and more entrenched is her society, Zelda (Karen Trumbo), and Rachel (Gwendolyn Duffy), the younger one, wanting to prove herself.  There is a conference occurring in which Rachel had wished to be a part of but her Abstract/Theory was rejected.  So she has decided to seek out one of the most prominent member of that society, in which they both belong, Evolutionary Biology, and possibly “pick her brain.”

I won’t pretend to be able to explain these theories, partly because that is just the surface story and partly because I couldn’t possibly do justice to these heady materials.  But, a thumbnail-sketch seems to accept the fact that women menstruate (the “How”) but as to “Why” they do, is up to conjecture.  It seems that the mostly male world of scientific discoveries choose to ignore that factor.  So it is up to the female of the species to investigate this aspect.  The Grandmother Hypothesis, toxic sperm, animal behavior, menopause, natural selection, adaptation/assimilation, procreation, et. al. seem to enter into this discussion…in a nutshell, as I said.

But the underlying basis of the story has to do with the somewhat toxic relationship these two women have.  The old school vs. the new school of thought in science, yes, but it delves much deeper into a woman’s psyche and, in particular, these two women.  Their relationship seems healthy, up to a point, but then truths are revealed in which neither of them is prepared to accept or even acknowledge.  I wish I could go into more detail but that would be revealing much of what an audience needs to discover.  All I can say is that an uneasy truce is reached and many questions are considered that an audience will take home with them.

And so, what I am left with, are the thoughts I had, some, seemingly unrelated, after witnessing this show.  One thought is that you are who you are today because of, not in spite of, your Past.  We all wish, at times, that we could have done some things differently, traveled that “road not taken,” but if we had, we would not be who are now.  Once major difference between men and women seems to be, if a couple is going on a trip, for the woman, the journey is what is important, for a man, just getting to the destination.

Which begs the question, what was God thinking when he created such complicated beings.  When a writer creates a scenario/characters, he fills in the blanks.  When God created…we are the blanks!  He must have wondered, left to our own devices, what will we create….  At this point, a hopeful chaos, I believe.  And, as for Zelda and Rachel, maybe they are just two, lonely people, trying to find their way in the dark, sans rules.  Like I said, my impressions…what will yours be?!

Cuomo has cast two excellent actors for the roles and has modulated their performances so that they, and we, don’t get too weighted down by the heavy scientific material.  This is a character-driven piece, as it should be, and it has some troopers at work here.  Duffy certainly has a career ahead of her in this field.  She balances well the snooty upstart housing an unsure and desperate woman underneath.  Trumbo is a master of pauses and steely-eyed looks.  If you watch closely you can see her thinking and reacting as if it is the first time she’s heard the lines being presented, which is part of what every actor seeks.  She is a pro and it shows!

I recommend this show and, keep in mind, it is a thinking person’s experience.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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