The How and the Why

Jan 28, 2014 - Apr 6, 2014

From the writer/producer of television hits like House of Cards and In Treatment comes this smart and compelling new play about science, family, and survival of the fittest. Two women meet for the first time on the eve of a national conference. Both are brilliant evolutionary biologists who share a zeal for science and a bold, contrarian approach to their male-dominated field—even as one challenges the other with a radical new theory that may change the way people regard sex. As mysteries unfold about their relationship, the two scientists clash over differing views on evolution, feminism and generational divides in modern America.


Production Team


* Member of Actors Equity Association

# Member of United Scenic Artists

~ Member of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society

+ TimeLine Company Member

^ TimeLine Associate Artist

§ TimeLine Playwrights Collective


  • Chicago Tribune

    February 7, 2014

    4 STARS. “[A] beautifully toned, superbly acted and generally excellent TimeLine Theatre production of Sarah Treem’s thoroughly fascinating, two-character, science-driven play.”

    —Chris Jones

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  • TimeOut Chicago

    February 7, 2014

    “Biology, evolutionary and otherwise, links the two characters in Sarah Treem’s absorbing 2011 play, staged with balance and care by director Keira Fromm at TimeLine … Treem also, happily, trusts us to follow real scientific debate without dumbing it down … [she] allows her characters’ enthusiasm for the science to infect us.

    —Kris Vire

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  • Chicago Reader

    February 12, 2014

    RECOMMENDED.a smart, vital piece of work that accesses the thrill you get listening to the banter of terribly erudite people in plays like Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, while also—again, a la Bennett—warming your heart.”

    —Tony Adler

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  • Stage and Cinema

    February 7, 2014

    RECOMMENDED. “An absorbing Chicago premiere by TimeLine Theatre Company … Happily, for these well-matched, intensely centered actors, The How and the Why is much more than an emotional debate—it’s a tour de coeur: Brooks’ assertive confidence (even in defense mode) is a tonic to Ledo’s vulnerable searcher … And it’s refreshing to see a play that knows how to do without men.”

    —Lawrence Bommer

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  • NewCity

    February 10, 2014

    RECOMMENDED. “There is something inherently fresh at work here, and that is drawn from the utterly female character of the work … Director Keira Fromm keeps things crackling throughout.

    —Brian Hieggelke

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  • Around the Town

    February 7, 2014

    HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. “TimeLine Theatre Company, the little theater that roars when it comes to quality productions has done it again! Another solid production on their intimate stage.”

    —Alan Bresloff

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  • Chicago Sun-Times

    February 7, 2014

    The overall production—directed by Keira Fromm and performed by Janet Ulrich Brooks and Elizabeth Ledo—is first-rate.

    —Hedy Weiss

  • Chicago Theater Beat

    February 15, 2014

    “Kudos to TimeLine for daring to take on a two-woman drama anchored in the crimson tide. But Sarah Treem’s emotionally rich, unexpectedly suspenseful and uncompromisingly upfront drama is far from a blunt exploration of the mechanics of riding the cotton pony. Through the relationship of two gifted biologists, Treem crafts a drama that wraps history, psychology and biology around a poignant drama that doubles as a sort of scientific whodunnit.

    —Catey Sullivan

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  • Chicago Critic

    February 8, 2014

    This is a smartly written work with biting sarcasm, intelligent ideas and deeply human observations on generational thoughts … Janet Ulrich Brooks and Elizabeth Ledo are nicely matched here … These two talents spar evenly as each strives to top the other. This is a new twist on the role of women in science. It is intelligent and timely.”

    —Tom Williams

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  • Dueling Critics

    February 12, 2014

    “This healthy dose of intellectual content raises an otherwise pretty standard intra-gender battle into an exciting examination of what it really means to be a woman. Under Keira Fromm’s direction, Janet Ulrich Brooks gives her usual fine performance, combining strength and intelligence with a generous dose of empathy, and Elizabeth Ledo more than holds her own.

    —Kelly Kleiman

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  • Daily Herald

    February 14, 2014

    RECOMMENDED. “If The How and the Why were to be graded on “The Bechdel Test” — a 1980s feminist movie-rating scale — it would unquestionably pass with flying colors. But The How and the Why is not just a feminist drama. Rather, the play proves universal with its intelligent insights and how it dramatizes two people striving to defend their work and ideals.

    —Scott C. Morgan

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  • Chicago Theatre Review

    February 12, 2014

    RECOMMENDED. “TimeLine company member and multi-Jeff Award nominee Janet Ulrich Brooks delivers yet another excellent performance as Zelda … These two exemplary actors are extraordinary in this love match, a struggle of wills that provides a masterclass in acting, which is the best reason for seeing this play.

    —Colin Douglas

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  • The Fourth Walsh

    February 14, 2014

    “Under the direction of Keira Fromm, Janet Ulrich Brooks (Zelda) and Elizabeth Ledo (Rachel) are the perfect pairing. They contrast beautifully … From lights up, the duo are engaging. The audience follows their every movement and word to puzzle together the mystery.

    —Katy Walsh

  • Berkshire Fine Arts

    February 15, 2014

    “In TimeLine’s staging, intimacy is pressed up against our noses. The thrust stage, created by Collette Pollard, sticks it to us and brings up close the anguish of the women’s faces, their fun, their feistiness … Engagement is on every level from the most primitive emotional to the turns and twists of fine minds. As James Watson is fond of saying, everything is in the question. There are no answers in The How and the Why. But you are left with many intoxicating questions to carry away. This represents TimeLine at its best.

    —Susan Hall

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  • Groupon

    February 25, 2014

    Like Treem’s work on House of Cards, The How and the Why appeals to both the heart and the head by juxtaposing steely intellectualism with raw emotion. As cerebral as the character Rachel is, Ledo imbues her with an almost frantic vulnerability. Brooks, on the other hand, moves with stoic, guarded body language, perhaps as a front for Zelda’s own insecurities … Director Keira Fromm’s blocking further emphasizes the division between the two women’s divide—and their first steps toward connection.”

    —Will Landon

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  • Chicago on the Aisle

    February 17, 2014

    “What precipitates, crystallizes, evolves from this emotional slugfest is a kind of formative understanding – something that might one day stand up on its hind legs and show the face of love … Director Keira Fromm keeps these sparring partners bobbing and weaving – with Rachel occasionally throwing a fast combination to the head – on two expressive sets devised by Collette Pollard.

    —Lawrence B. Johnson

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  • Windy City Media

    RECOMMENDED. “Treem 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. “

    —Mary Shen Barnidge

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  • Chicagoland Theater Reviews

    February 14, 2014

    “Even if The How and the Why is too densely textured, its dialogue still crackles in the mouths of the two perfectly matched performers, Brooks with her cool and Ledo with her volatility. The science part of the play is adult in the best sense of that much abused word. It’s not a perfect play but two hours of strong and resourceful acting are reward enough to recommend the show.

    —Dan Zeff

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Discussions & Events

  • Sunday Scholars Series
    Sunday, September 27 from 4:30 - 5:30 pm

    SUNDAY SCHOLARS PANEL DISCUSSION featuring guest speakers with expertise and experience related to the themes of The How and Why

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