sexual politics

‘How and the Why’: timely, and dry

CoHo's newest frankly contemplates sexual politics and where we all came from. Hint: It begins with a V.

The How and the Why,  a prolonged and mildly dramatic mother/daughter dialogue about the science of menstruation and menopause, is pretty undeniably a women’s play—and if for even a second that made you think, “How limited,” check yourself. Women are actually the broadest possible audience! Most people are women.

A play that probes how women work in every sense—in the workplace, in communication with each other, in the context of family dynamics and romantic relationships—is perennially relevant. But a play about how women work physically, reproductively—is particularly timely. Though it would be glib to say “vaginas are having a political moment,” the kind of political moment vaginas are currently having is a doozy. As besieged by outside interests as Standing Rock, vaginas have inspired a potent new strain of humorous commentary. The “Pussy grabs back!” voter slogan compares the vagina to a cornered creature, fighting back rabidly after Donald Trump has grabbed it without asking. Russian provocateurs Pussy Riot, meanwhile, have declared vaginal territory a homeland worth defending. In their NSFW new single, Straight Outta Vagina, they shout, “Don’t play stupid, don’t play dumb, Vagina’s where you’re really from!”

Karen Trumbo and Gwendolyn Duffy: no holds barred. Photo: Owen Carey

Karen Trumbo and Gwendolyn Duffy: no holds barred. Photo: Owen Carey

But in contrast to prevailing vaginal consciousness, Sarah Treem’s play isn’t leaning on humor or bombast. It’s milder, subtler, and more demanding of its audience. It’s inquisitive, at times pedantic, and deeply concerned. Expect to eavesdrop, consider and learn, but don’t expect any comic relief.