[Photos provided by Sean Hargadon]
["Silent Sky" stars Kassandra Hesek (from left), Jake Busse, Paige Brantley, Julie Bayer and JoAnn Smith.]
ST. CHARLES – Rarely can a reviewer assert that a production is close to flawless, but Steel Beam Theatre’s "Silent Sky" is just that. Its fluent script is brilliantly acted by an ensemble of five, all superbly directed by Sean Hargadon.
Even Jen Johnson's celestial, effective set design and Marge Uhlarik-Boller’s costumes are impeccable supports.
"Silent Sky" is a period piece set in the early 1900s against the backdrop of Einstein, World War I and the suffragist movement. Written by playwright Lauren Gunderson, the most produced playwright in America today, it’s a smart, funny, elegant, poignant and so very relevant bio-drama.
"Silent Sky" is a celebration of dreams, wonder and relationships as it unfolds the little known true story of Henrietta Leavitt, a headstrong and brilliant American astronomer. Her discoveries of Cepheid star patterns and luminosity have had a profound and lasting impact to this day – Hubble telescope anyone?
Leavitt was one of Edward Pickering’s “harem” at Harvard, women who worked for about 30 cents an hour to catalog and measure stars and whose ideas and work were dismissed until men claimed the credit. The women weren’t even allowed to touch, let alone use, Harvard’s refractory telescope.
Under Hargadon’s direction, "Silent Sky" shimmers as a fast-paced, historical drama with surprising humor. The cast is simply stellar. Paige Brantley of Chicago is an outstanding Henrietta Leavitt. She’s fresh, articulate, emotive and totally credible in her character’s journey.
Brantley’s talents illustrate the pleasure of performance and words. Her co-workers – or fellow “computers" – suffragist and meticulous Annie Jump Cannon, creator of the Harvard classification scheme, and Williamina Fleming, discoverer of the Horsehead Nebula, are engagingly portrayed by Julie Bayer of Batavia and JoAnn Smith of Roselle.