The How and The Why

THe how and the why

by sarah treem

The How and The Whyis a smart, thoughtful, and surprisingly emotional play by Sarah Treem that was first produced in 2011.  

 Rachel, a promising young Grad Student in Evolutionary Biology, visits Zelda, a respected, Senior Professor at Harvard in the same field, one morning. Rachel has come up with a radical new hypothesis as to why women menstruate. According to Rachel, “We know how it happen. But we don’t know why. And we’ve never cared.” Rachel’s hypothesis, though potentially revolutionary, directly contradicts Zelda’s own ground-breaking work, ‘The Grandmother Hypothesis’. The passionate discussion of this hypothesis begins a fascinating clash of the minds, as the two women, from two different generations, discuss everything from feminism, career, love, and even life itself. 

 Equally cerebral and visceral, this play is unfailingly human as the two women come to terms with the choices that they’ve made in their lives, the startling similarities between them, as well as their potentially diverging paths moving forward. The How and The Whyis a beautiful piece of work that interrogates the conversations surrounding women’s bodies, their role in society, as well as the challenges they face in a male driven work environment.

Cast: Bronwen Smith as Zelda and Annie Arbuckle as Rachel.

Crew: Directed by Tanya Mathivanan. Set Design by Ro Miller and Sarah Melo. Lighting Design by Chengyan Boon (Associate Lighting Designer Ryan Yee). Sound Design by Scott Zechner. Costume Design by Ro Miller. Stage Managed by Erica Leduc. Photography by Javier Sotres



by scott button

Viva follows two strangers, Alice and Graeme, whose lives become intertwined over the course of one night in Las Vegas. Alice comes to the city in a desperate attempt to secure an organ on the black market to save her dying brother; Graeme is partying with friends when he finds a photocard listing the services of a prostitute - and he becomes convinced the woman is his missing sister.

 Viva is presented as a lyrical duologue, where each story eventually bleeds into the other. The stories of two very different people intersect in the most unlikely of ways, mirroring each other while also presenting contrasting scenarios of similar themes. It is an examination of love, loss, and the lengths to which people will go to in order to protect the ones closest to them. In a world where society is governed by strict moral and ethical boundaries, yet also controlled by the wealthy elite, how do we draw the lines of right and wrong where lives are at stake? Beautifully poetic and set in a hyper-realistic world, Viva conjures up the most extreme circumstances in order to examine its rather universal themes, holding up a magnifying class to the fragile boundaries that keep us in place. 

 Viva is an original script by Vancouver playwright Scott Button. This is the first production of an experimental format, and is being presented as a joint effort by local Independent theatre companies Aenigma Theatre and Bright Young Theatre.

Cast: Melanie Reich as Alice and Patrick Dodd as Graeme.

Crew: Directed by Tanya Mathivanan. Set Design by Sarah Melo. Lighting Design by Chengyan Boon (Associate Lighting Designer Ryan Yee). Sound Design by Scott Zechner. Costume Design by Alix Miller. Stage Managed by Javier Sotres. Photography by Javier Sotres



by michael frayn

Copenhagen begins with the spirits of the long deceased German physicist Werner Heisenberg, Danish physicist Niels Bohr and Bohr’s wife Margrethe meeting in the afterlife. They have come together to resolve a question that had been plaguing them during their lifetimes. “Why had Heisenberg come to Copenhagen?” Heisenberg and Bohr, once friends, partners and colleagues, had ended up on opposite sides of WWII. Bohr, who was half-jewish had eventually gone on to Los Alamos in the United States to help work on the Manhatten Project. Heisenberg however, was the head of the German atomic bomb program.

In 1941 however, Heisenberg paid his old friends, Niels and Margrethe Bohr, a visit in Copenahgen, which was in Nazi-occupied Denmark. History never figured out what the visit was about. All that is known about that fateful encounter is that it effectually ended the twenty-year friendship between the two quantum physics titans. Both Bohr and Heisenberg gave different accounts of what happened that night. 

 In death however, “now no one can be hurt, and no on can be betrayed.” The ghosts of the old friends have reunited to try and finally put to rest the uncertainty behind the events of that night. And perhaps, they might just be able to come to terms with their roles in the war, as well as their culpability in shaping the world during that horrific time. The play ultimately explores the role of the scientist in society, the politics of science, and the responsibility that each person has in the face of difficult choices and their consequences. 

Cast: Francis Boyle as Niels Bohr, Eric Regimbald as Werner Heisenberg and Tara Pratt as Margrethe Bohr.

Crew: Directed by Tanya Mathivanan. Set Design by Sarah Melo. Lighting and Sound Design by Scott Zechner. Costume Design by Alix Miller. Stage Managed by Erica Leduc. Photography by Javier Sotres


By Christopher Shinn

Presented as part of the 2016 Vancouver Fringe Festival's Dramatic Works Series. Dying City is about a young, widowed therapist named Kelly, whose husband, Craig, died a year ago while on a tour of duty as an American soldier in Iraq. Struggling with her grief and traumatic memories of the last days before Craig was shipped out, Kelly cuts herself off from his side of the family in an attempt to piece together her shattered life and move on. In the present, Kelly’s world is turned upside down yet again when her brother-in-law, Craig’s Identical twin, Peter, shows up unexpectedly on her doorstep one night. In the tense, unsettling interaction that follows, startling revelations and brutal truths are revealed as a stunned Kelly and an ambiguously intentioned Peter try to come to terms with their mutual grief.

Alternating between July of 2005 and January of 2004, the play itself is structured very much like a trauma. Flashbacks of Kelly’s time with Craig are involuntarily triggered by her interactions with Peter, forcing her to confront difficult periods of her memories as well as emotional wounds that she would much rather keep buried. Peter’s presence also undermines the stability of her space; his intentions towards her seem to be obscured and ever changing, as he alternates between sympathy, charm, and passive aggressiveness. All of this makes for a psychologically complex play as it shifts the political landscape of the war in Iraq and transposes it onto the internal space of a person, examining the politics of grief and violence through the microcosm of the psyche. 

Cast: Christine Bortolin as Kelly and Garland Chang as Peter/Craig.

Crew: Directed by Tanya Mathivanan. Set Design by Sarah Melo. Lighting and Sound Design by Scott Zechner. Costume Design by Tory Ip. Stage Managed by Erica Leduc. Photography by Javier Sotres

RED (2016)

By John Logan

*Chosen as one of the Top Ten Theatre Productions in 2016 by Vancouver Presents!*

John Logan’s Tony Winning play is about famed American Artist Mark Rothko, his relationship with a fictionalized assistant, Ken, as well as his relationship with Art in general. The play depicts a fictionalized account of a notorious period in Rothko’s Life, when he was commissioned to paint a series of murals for the exclusive, and expensive, Four Seasons Restaurant. Based on actual events, Logan imagines the two years between Rothko’s commission and his ultimate rejection of the project, crafting an intense play that examines not only the nature of art and its relationship to the artist, but the impact of art on our lives.

Ken acts, not only as a surrogate for the audience as we go along on a journey with this brilliant, temperamental man, but also as a foil to Rothko. Ken is very a much a product of his generation that ushered in the era of Pop Art in the late 50s and early 60s. Over the course of the play, he slowly transforms from a nervous, awed young man to an assertive budding artist in his own right. Rothko, meanwhile, struggles to come to terms with his own mortality and relevance as an artist, but never loses his passion or gives up on the violently beautiful philosophy that epitomizes his work, even as a new era of art and philosophy is ushered in. The struggle between the old generation, Rothko and the new generation, Ken, comes to a tense and brilliant head, as old wounds are torn open, agendas are reevaluated, and the very soul of Art in its entirety is laid bare for us to witness. 

Cast: David J. Bodor as Mark Rothko and Patrick Dodd as Ken.

Crew: Directed by Tanya Mathivanan. Set Design by Sarah Melo. Lighting Design by Chengyan Boon. Sound Design by Javier Sotres. Costume Design by Alix Miller. Stage Managed by Erica Leduc. Photography by Javier Sotres.

Blackbird (2015)

By David Harrower

*Chosen as one of the Westender's Top 15 Picks of the Fringe 2015*

Presented as part of the 2015 Vancouver Fringe Festival's Dramatic Works Series. David Harrow’s award-winning play depicts the tragic and intense interaction between a twenty-seven year old woman, Una, and a fifty-five year old man, Ray. Una confronts Ray, who now goes by the name Peter, at his workplace about the emotional and sexual relationship they had fifteen years prior, when he was forty and she was only twelve. The relationship was eventually discovered, and Ray was sentenced to prison. Una too, faced a social prison sentence of her own, as her mother blamed her for dragging the family through the mud, and she was ostracized in her community despite being a child.

After fifteen years, Una stumbles across a magazine featuring Ray’s workplace with his picture in it.Recognizing him immediately, she makes the decision to find him in order to finally face their turbulent history head-on. Ray, who has worked hard to create a new life for himself since being released from prison, is absolutely shocked to see this ghost of his past suddenly appear in front of him, and is extremely reluctant to speak to her. As Ray struggles to hold on to the new life that he has built, trying to block out and move on from bygone events, Una struggles to comprehend and come to terms with the affair, as well as her intensely conflicting feelings about it. All of it culminates in a harrowing experience, that may have always been inevitable, but which neither of them may have been ready for.

Harrower’s sensitive but frank portrayal of their interaction is equally disturbing and heart breaking in its insistence on facing the brutal reality of their circumstances directly. While Harrower avoids demonizing the character of Ray, he also avoids the trap of victimizing a victim even further through his representation of Una.  Harrower is less interested in castigating the relationship but is careful not to romanticize it either, and is thus able to expertly paint an eerily accurate and devastating picture of the consequences of this “terrible love story”. Harrower’s stunningly written dialogue blurs the boundaries between thought and speech, which successfully removes a dimension of social construction that so often obstructs open communication. All of this results in a bare-bones, emotionally raw, and savagely honest conversation between these two troubled individuals.   

Cast: Stephanie Izsak as Una and Francis Boyle as Ray. Featuring Karissa Ketter as The Girl. 

Crew: Directed by Tanya Mathivanan. Set and Costume Design by Sarah Melo. Lighting and Sound Design by Scott Zechner. Stage Managed by Erica Leduc. Photography by Javier Sotres.

The Zoo Story

The Zoo Story (2014)

By Edward Albee

The play depicts the meeting of two individuals from different spheres of late 1950s American society. Peter, a clean-cut, upper-middle class family man, is sitting on a bench in New York City’s Central Park and reading a book. His peaceful solitude is soon interrupted, however, by the arrival of Jerry, a younger, carelessly dressed man and self-described “permanent transient”. Jerry announces, without any provocation, that he has been to the zoo and asks Peter if he is walking north.

Peter, who is clearly reluctant to engage in any sort of social discourse with Jerry, nevertheless politely answers his question. Jerry, ignoring Peter’s disinterest, then manages to manipulate Peter into having a conversation with him, which slowly reveals Peter’s socially conventional lifestyle, as well as Jerry’s chaotic situation and traumatic past. Though initially distant and disengaged, Peter gradually becomes more enraptured by Jerry’s absurd stories and bizarre life.  The “Story of Jerry and the Dog”, which features Jerry’s attempts to both befriend and kill his neighbour’s dog, strikes a deep emotional cord within Peter. Shaken, he tearfully asks Jerry to stop talking to him, which eventually leads to shocking and tragic consequences for both parties.

Albee’s depiction of two souls in the alienating concrete jungle is complex, poignant and profoundly heart breaking in its frank portrayal of social disparity. Jerry, as the ‘Other’ in society, is reminiscent of the Beats generation and its rejection of social norms, which segregate and dehumanize a section of people in society. Albee’s play itself similarly rejects the structures and classifications of its time, revolutionizing American playwriting. Albee blends absurdity with naturalism and fantasy with realistic settings. Furthermore the specific phrasing and carefully crafted dialogue by the master wordsmith is offset by the improvisational elements that he allows within the monologues that Jerry delivers. This juxtaposition of precision and improvisation adds to the complexity and nuanced nature of the story telling, and further allows the performers to immerse themselves within the roles, adding even more layers to the already well-crafted characters.  

Cast: Scott Button as Peter and Tom Stevens as Jerry.

Crew: Directed by Tanya Mathivanan. Set and Costume Design by Sarah Melo. Lighting and Sound Design by Scott Zechner. Stage Managed by Erica Leduc. Photography by Javier Sotres.

No Exit (2014)

By Jean-Paul Sartre

The play follows the fates of three damned souls in the 1940s, Cradeau a pacifistic journalist, Inez, a lesbian postal clerk, and Estelle, a high-society woman. They have all been escorted into a room by the mysterious Bell Boy and locked in. Instead of medieval torture devices, fire and brimstone however, they find to their surprise that the room looks relatively normal. None of them will admit the reason for their damnation: Cradeau says that he was executed for being a pacifist, while Estelle insists that a mistake has been made.

 Inez, the only seemingly self-aware one of the three, however, demands that they all stop lying to themselves and confess to their crimes. She refuses to believe that they have all ended up in the room by chance, and soon realizes that they have been placed together to make each other miserable. Cradeau suggests that they try to leave each other alone, but the silence does not last, and they eventually start arguing. Eventually, they realize that they are all each others torturers, and that the punishment for their sins is the psychological torture that they are doomed to inflict on each other for the rest of eternity.

The famous phrase “Hell is just—other people” as uttered by Cradeau, references Sartre’s ideas in Being and Nothingness, specifically that of ‘The Look’. It refers to the idea that the presence of another person alone causes the individual to view themselves as an ‘object’, as well as view their surrounding world through the eyes of the other. Therefore, the ontological certainly of the individual becomes relational to the other

Cast: Harrison MacDonald as Vincent Crudeau, Jordan Kerbs as Inez, Annie Arbuckle as Estelle and Michael Stewart as The Bell Boy.

Crew: Directed by Tanya Mathivanan. Set Design by Sarah Melo. Lighting Design by Patrick Smith. Sound Design by Javier Sotres. Costume Design by Laura Fukumoto. Stage Managed by Erica Leduc. Photography by Scott Zechner.

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