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  WINDY CITY TIMES

The How and the Why
THEATER REVIEW
by Mary Shen Barnidge
2014-02-12

This article shared 3156 times since Wed Feb 12, 2014
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Playwright: Sarah Treem. At: Timeline Theatre Company at Baird Hall, 615 W. Wellington St. Tickets: 773-281-8463; www.timelinetheatre.com; $35-$48 . Runs through: April 6

There was a time, not so long ago, when intergenerational confrontations between women were assumed to be based almost exclusively in their conflicting attractions as sexual partners or Broadway headliners. By contrast, the divas under scrutiny in Sarah Treem's two-character play are hard-boiled eggheads with drop-dead impressive credentials, but their preoccupations—plus ca change—are still overwhelmingly rooted in estrogenic imperatives.

Literally, in this case—both Zelda Kahn and Rachel Hardeman are evolutionary biologists, you see, their high-profile research focused on the significance of menstruation as a factor in the progress of human reproduction. This mandates much clinical discussion of gynecological mechanics ( playgoers squeamish about "lady parts" are hereby warned ), but since our society continues to deem wholly intellectual women unacceptable, a large portion of their conversation is dedicated to swapping confidences regarding their own hormonal dispositions. These are not restricted to their own confessions, but also encompass enough cross-fire accusations, regrets, family secrets, gender-linked ( in fiction, anyway ) physical impairments and other "a-ha" moments to satisfy audiences looking for old-fashioned cat-fights.

Well, if female scientists didn't dominate the study of wimmin-got-sex, that would leave the job to their male counterparts ( whose record in the field is less than credible, however lofty its intentions ). Likewise, if plays portraying smart, liberated, ambitious, modern women as earth moms obsessed with familiar domestic issues—Career or marriage? The love of a good man or the pursuit of elusive fame? Rule the world or rock the cradle?—sometimes smell of commercial compromise, they also provide a safety net for opportunities hitherto closed to any but single-X-chromosome British actors.

One of these is the chewy repartee Breem has penned in explication of genuinely revolutionary manifestos for the dream team of Janet Ulrich Brooks and Elizabeth Ledo to volley with an ease rendering the arcane jargon immediately comprehensible to the most slackerly quiz-dodger. Keira Fromm wisely keeps her direction muted, as does Collette Pollard and Alison Siple the scenic and costume design ( although Rachel's Lolita-grunge garb seems excessively adolescent for a braniac in her late 20s ). In the end, however, whatever femme reassurance may have been necessary to bring Zelda and Rachel's stories the recognition they deserve is more than redeemed by the discoveries ushered in thereby.


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