The Crimson Square Theatre Company presents “The How and The Why” written by Sarah Treem and directed by Allen Barton at the Beverly Hills Playhouse running through February 20.
Sarah Treem’s is a gifted television writer, producer and playwright. Her play, “The How and The Why” is the latest production at the lovely Beverly Hills Playhouse, produced by The Crimson Square Theatre Company. Ms Treem co-created and was the show runner for “The Affair” and the “House of Cards” inaugural season, she wrote all three seasons of “In Treatment” and has had many of her highly thought of plays produced. So it’s a given perhaps that this play is just as good as anything she has done before.
Having said that, as brilliantly as a play is written, each production does of course rely on the talents of its actors and the tenderness of its director. Particularly a play as fraught with emotion as this one. Two women meet on the eve of a prestigious scientific conference. One an established expert and star in her field of Evolutionary Biology, the other a grad student with a revolutionary thesis she is desperate to share, adopted at birth, who has very recently discovered that this particular expert, someone who she has always admired as a leading scientific mind in her field, is in fact her birth mother.
This is serious stuff. It is written, however, in a style so driven by the comic reality of their situation, the sublime tension and the ludicrousness of the timing of it all, that the extreme surrealism of these two characters in this precise moment in time is somehow made totally real.
Like the most absurd coincidences in life often are.
The actors are absolutely superb. Both such utterly disparate characters. The substantive scientist, decades into her celebrated career, “Rachel” is played by Andrea Nittoli Kelly. An accomplished actor, Kelly also has background in stand up, and it is I think this that gives her the ability to be so sure of her timing and of her place in a world she that she alone created, that gives this performance its magical quality. The older Rachel must be cynical, but not too far gone. Not too tough. After all, she is there, utterly exposed, knowing that she is meeting her daughter for the first time. Faye Viviana plays that daughter as a tightly wound and brilliant woman, still reeling from the knowledge that her mother is who she has unknowingly driven herself to become. She sits, itching to escape, nervous, annoyed, hurt and burning to know every detail of why her mother gave her up.
“The How and The Why” is brutal at times, to watch these two dancing around the obvious questions, trying to be civilised in a moment that defies civility. But it’s also very very funny. And moving and sweet and absolutely fascinating. The director, Allen Barton, wisely seems to let them be, lightly guiding them, holding them to the task in hand, but allowing them both to pull away from each other and back again with truly breathtaking honesty.
It’s a gorgeous play beautifully acted and wonderfully, deftly pulled together. Simple, refined and nerve-racking to watch. I absolutely loved it.
However, “The How and The Why” is not a long run, so don’t dawdle.
Running through February 20
Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm
254 S Robertson Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Faye Viviana – “Rachel Hardeman”
Andrea Nittoli Kelly – “Zelda Kahn”
Writer Sarah Treem
Director Allen Barton
Producer Crimson Square
Executive Producer Faye Viviana
Stage Manager Jeffery Sun
Lighting Designer from Crimson Square Theatre Company
Publicity by Sandra Kuker PR