In the Northern California debut of Playwright Lauren Gunderson's "Silent Sky,"we get period costumes, rich dialogue and a homage to Henrietta Leavitt, the female astronomer who made pioneering discoveries in the clubby scientific man's world of the early twentieth century. Scenic Designer Annie Smart takes us inside the Harvard Observatory, which ties a satisfying knot at the end of Act Two, and costume designer Fumiko Bielefeldt must have had a lot of fun with the dresses.
In many ways, the heart of Gunderson's story is the relationship between two different sets of women. Elena Wright and Jennifer Le Blanc play Henrietta Leavitt and her sister Margaret. We see two women who, while different in many ways, are still sisters who rely on one another. In her scientific world, Leavitt has an even more sisterly relationship with her two colleagues Annie Cannon (Sarah Dacey Charles) and Williamina Fleming (Lynne Soffer). The more earthy Fleming and flinty Cannon counsel Henrietta on her work but, more importantly, teach her how to get around the condescending Harvard power structure.
Peter Shaw plays Matt Citron, the Harvard associate who appears to be Henrietta's love interest. But science is this woman's muse as well as her dream.
"Silent Sky" teaches us about astronomy while giving us a fabulous ending to the story of the woman who in real life discovered more than 2,400 stars. The First Act feels long, but after intermission pays off resolutely.
RATINGS: ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG
The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "Silent Sky" Three Stars with a BANGLE OF PRAISE. The writing, acting and production are all first rate while the BANGLE is for the three hanky finale, which wraps up the astronomer's career and and keeps the audience smiling as we exit. We loved this play and you will too.
Mountain View Center for Performing Arts
500 Castro Street, Mountain View
Through Feb 9
$19 (30 and under) - $73
Photo Credits: M. Kitaoka and T. Martin