BWW Review: Look Up For SILENT SKY
For those that cannot hear the music, the sky is silent.
For those, like Henrietta Swan Leavitt, who are in tune with the universe's vast harmony, the sky is far from quiet.
In the early 20th century, women were barred from many fields of study - even pondering the wonders of the night sky. But that did not stop Leavitt from making discoveries that lead to establishing a measurement standard for astronomers all over the world. She left behind the familiar world of her father's pulpit in Wisconsin, ventured off to Harvard, and uncovered a way to use the brightness of stars to determine their distance from one another.
Lauren Gunderson has taken Leavitt's story of persistence and transposed it into a work of pure poetry. Silent Sky examines the life of a remarkable woman with candor, tragedy, and humor, Gunderson has managed to take a topic that audiences could find uninteresting and create a brilliantly crafted piece of theatre.
Audiences are greeted by a sprawling star map which serves as the main playing space. The carefully painted constellations, as well as the slightly arched panels that line the back of the stage, are the product of Mike Lawler's incredible scenic design. As the show unfolds, LED lights make themselves known from various locations around the stage. Embedded in the floor, they glisten as the women notate star classifications. Lawler's meticulous design adds an extra element of wonder to the production as audiences are mesmerized by the light.
Clare Arena Haden, who plays the vivacious Leavitt, glistens in the role. Haden's delightful smile and charming nature make her an immediate favorite. Watching as she lovingly cares for her cosmic heaven is a beautiful gift from Forward Theater to their patrons. By the same token, Haden's connection with her stage sister Liz Cassarino (Margaret Leavitt) denotes a kinship that shows often lack.
While Haden's moments with lovably awkward Michael Huftile (Leavitt's supervisor and love interest Peter Shaw) reveal Leavitt's need to feel accomplished in both the personal and professional aspects of her life without sacrificing one for the other. Huftile also plays nicely with the two ladies who work beside Leavitt, Annie Cannon and Williamina Fleming, who make a point to spar with him whenever possible.
Colleen Madden is a sharp, but compassionate Cannon. She acts the part of the stern leader of the pack in star computing. While Williamina, Carrie Hitchcock with a fiery wit and sporting a perfect Scottish brogue, provides comedic relief as well as pointed wisdom.
Creating a constellation of a cast with these five performers is certainly a measure of Director Jennifer Uphoff Grey's eye for perfection. A production with every detail in its place must be heaven for a director.
For Leavitt, heaven is a place alight with an immeasurable number of stars.
For lovers of theatre, heaven is a show that has everything going for it - and Silent Sky is our Northern Star.