The How and The Why

Karen Trumbo and Gwendoly Duffy in The How and The Why. Photo Credit Owen Carey.

CoHo Productions presents:

The How and the Why

by Sarah Treem

Directed by Philip Cuomo

Featuring Karen Trumbo and Gwendolyn Duffy.

Photo Credit Owen Carey


Two evolutionary biologists: one an eminent scholar and professor, the other an anxious student with a radical thesis. They are connected by more than just their focus on the female reproductive system – a fertile subject since scientists agree on the how of menstruation, but not the why.

From the writer of House of Cards and In Treatment, this fascinating play is a collision of two sharp minds in an embodied, emotional debate. The Grandmother Hypothesis vs. Toxic Sperm Theory. First Wave vs. Third Wave. Nature vs. Nurture. Genetics vs. Family. Only the fittest survive.


Oregon Arts Watch – Review by A.L. Adams

“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. 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.”

Willamette Week Review by Hailey Bachrach

Roles like Zelda are lacking for women in theater, and Trumbo proves what a loss this lack is with her powerful but sensitive performance…Cuomo keeps things moving at a brisk pace. Trumbo’s performance should not be missed, and there is much to admire in Treem’s interest in scientific women.”

Judy Nedry Review

CoHo Productions’ line-up of plays is interesting and not particularly mainstream. The theatre’s mission is to broaden perspectives and cultivate empathy through “vibrant and intimate theatrical productions”. There is powerful work being done in this small venue. If you haven’t seen a play there, I strongly recommend it.

Dennis Sparks Review


The How and the Why premiered in 2011 at Berlind Theatre at McCarter Theatre Center in New Jersey with oscar winner Mercedes Ruehl. It went on to be produced at InterAct Theatre in 2011, Penguin Theatre in 2012, Chicago’s Timeline Theatre Co in 2014 and Aurora Theatre’s 2016 season in Berkeley. 


  • Kristina Mast – Stage Manager
  • Dan Meeker – Lighting and Scenic
  • Rory Breshears – Sound
  • Elyse Grimaldi – Costumes
  • Kate Mura – Props
  • Anthony Arinsta – Master Electrician
  • Chris Andrews – Set Builder / TD
  • Jessica Dart – Dramaturg, CoHo Artistic Fellow


Sarah Treem. Photo Credit: Eric Charbonneau/Invision for SHOWTIME
Photo Credit: Eric Charbonneau/Invision for SHOWTIME

“I began thinking about what it meant for my generation to be the daughters of the great feminists. What it meant, for me, to be the daughter of my own mother. What it meant to be a woman. An intellect. A girlfriend. And a conversation started to develop in my head. Between a mother and daughter. Both whip smart. Both ambitious. Who are equally desperate for and terrified by each other.

-Sarah Treem, Playwright

Sarah Treem is the Golden Globe winning writer and producer of Showtime’s The Affair. She also writes for House of Cards for Netflix, and is  Writer/Producer on two acclaimed HBO series: In Treatment and Mark Wahlberg’s How To Make It In America. Her full-length plays include Empty Sky, Against the Wall, Mirror, Mirror, A Feminine Ending, Human Voices, When We Were Young and Unafraid, and Vienna’s Amazing. A Feminine Ending received its world premiere at Playwrights Horizons in Fall 2007, was subsequently produced at South Coast Repertory and Portland Center Stage in 2008, and is published by Samuel French. Sarah has been in residence at The Sundance Institute and The Ojai Playwriting Conference. She has been commissioned by South Coast Repertory and Playwrights Horizons, and she is a current fellow at the Lark Playwrights’ Workshop. Sarah Sarah is adapting Tom Wolfe’s novel I Am Charlotte Simmons for Bill Haber and Tina Brown at HBO. Sarah graduated from Yale University and the Yale School of Drama.

KAREN TRUMBO (as Zelda) 

Karen Trumbo. Photo Credit Owen Carey

“While preparing for the role of Zelda in The How and The Why, I’ve been touched on many levels by the work of Marie Curie, physicist and two time Nobel Prize winner. She once said, “Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.” This quote speaks to Zelda’s character, to me as an artist and human being. “
-Karen Trumbo
Gwendolyn Duffy. Photo Credit Owen Carey.
The How and The Why is a story of generations; an exploration in generations of feminism, science and of women. Whether or not we follow the direct path of our mother or father, as my character Rachel has and as I have personally, the life we are all navigating has been directly affected by the choices the generation before us has made. What do we have to learn from their successes and their mistakes? How do these lessons deepen our growth as individuals? And why does it feel so freaking scary to try and understand this connection? These are some of the questions that I’m delving into while working with this script and they have a potent personal significance to me as a human being, as a daughter.”
-Gwendolyn Duffy

Philip Cuomo (Director) 

“Sarah Treem’s The How and The Why is a masterfully crafted play. With a light touch she embeds a scientific method in the action. Mother and daughter – two dynamic, intelligent, creative and powerful women – inquire about each other, test their theories and explore the how and the why of their relationship. Within this structure Sarah creates a fascinating, funny and heart tugging experience.”
-Philip Cuomo

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