Front Row Reviewers

Silent Sky at the Covey Center in Provo, UT: “The Mind Is Sexless and So Is the Sky”

Front Row Reviewers

Front Row Reviewers

By Ashlei Havili Thomas

The stars and heavens have fascinated mankind for millennia, yet most of the advancements in our understanding of space happened in the last hundred years.  Silent Sky, written by Lauren Gundersen, playing at the Covey Center for the Arts in Provo, Utah, tells the little-known story of Henrietta Leavitt, a woman “computer” whose work redefined our place in the universe at the turn of the 20th century.  Performed in the intimate Brinton Black Box Theater, Silent Sky is a masterpiece of wonder, curiosity, female empowerment, and sheer determination to seek answers to humanity’s existential questions about the brilliance we see in the night sky.  This poignant play will be a new favorite for all ages as it transports the audience into the heavens to find a deeper connection with the universe and those we love on Earth.

Silent Sky tells the story of Henrietta Leavitt, a mathematician who leaves her family home in Wisconsin to accept a position at Harvard Observatory.  Yet when she arrives, she learns that women are not allowed near the telescope but relegated as “computers” mapping the distance between stars on photo plates.  Undeterred by this, Leavitt pursues her own theories about the stars she sees, navigating sexism, problems at home in Wisconsin, and a budding relationship all while never taking her eyes away from the heavens.  Yet as things begin to boil over, Henrietta must decide if her life here with those she loves is worth sacrificing over the pursuit of the otherworldly.

Rachel Ryan Nicholes as Henrietta is riveting.  R. Nicholes perfectly pairs Henrietta’s almost abrasive directness with a passion that bleeds over from her scientific pursuits into her relationships.  This is seen most clearly in R. Nicholes’ scenes with Christie Gardner, who plays Henrietta’s sister, Margaret.  While Gardner and R. Nicholes portray seemingly polar opposite women, their tenacity and sisterly affection shines through. Gardiner is the mirror to R. Nicholes’ unyielding persistence, a warm and motherly softness wrapped around a steel core, bringing out the tenderness in R. Nicholes to balance her never-ending drive.  Jordan Nicholes plays the uninspired, awkward love interest Mr. Shaw with heartwarming sincerity; completely thrown by Henrietta’s verve and unending curiosity,  J. Nicholes creates a character in Mr. Shaw that the audience can cheer on and roll their eyes at in equal measure. R. Nicholes and J. Nicholes (married in real life) create an adorable story for the audience, from stiff colleagues to the warmest companions, drawing the audience in with each interaction.  The five-person cast is rounded out with Annadee Morgan as Williamina Fleming and Alexis Boss as Annie Cannon.  A. Morgan is the play’s grounded wit, bringing levity to the show that warms the heart.  Boss is A. Morgan’s foil, brusque and driving but fiercely caring.  With R. Nicholes and Gardner, these “lunatic women,” as Henrietta says, create a strong female ensemble that reminds the audience femininity is not a hindrance to strength.

The simple scenic design by Robert Seely balances the rigidity of mathematics with elements of warmth that meld together seamlessly to create a work-all space that invites the audience into the story. Seely’s sound design with the lighting design by Spencer Powell bring the wonder and awe of the cosmos to Provo.  Elizabeth Crandall’s costume, hair, and makeup design is masterful, creating looks for each character that ever so slightly shift with the passing of time and changing fashions.  The entire production is helmed by director David Morgan with a deft artistry to create a beautiful show capturing both the simplicity and indescribable wonder of humanity and its timeless quest to reach for the stars.

As said by Henrietta in the production, “life is about getting appropriately upset,” and this show highlights that, tackling the blatant sexism of the turn of the 20th Century, women’s suffrage,  and the impending World War in just two hours.   While this reviewer does think that this is a production for all ages, children under 12 may be confused by some of the more intellectual subject matter. 

Silent Sky is a beautiful production with the perfect blend of an uplifting true story, an all-star cast and the intimate atmosphere created by the production team. This moving production may not be the first you would consider for a date night in a month dedicated to love and affection, but the unity, bravery, and strength of this story are as touching as any romance.  Don’t skip out on Silent Sky at the Covey Center of the Arts in Provo, you won’t want to miss this breathtaking show.

The Brinton Black Box Theater at the Covey Center for the Arts presents Silent Sky, written by Lauren Gunderson.
The Covey Center for the Arts, 425 W Center St. Provo, UT 84601
February 8-10, 12, 15-17, 19, 22-24, 26, 29, March 1-2 and 4 7:30PM
Tickets: $18-20 online ticketing website
Contact: 801-852-7007
Covey Center Facebook page
Silent Sky Facebook event
Silent Sky promo film

Front Row Reviewers

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