Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

Silent Sky
Actors Studio 66
Review by Carole C. Sullivan

Andra Beatty, Caitlin Kelly,
Kim Monti, and Annie Cannon

Photo by Christy Lopez
Theatre is fully back in Albuquerque after the pandemic, and this production of Silent Sky, a play by Lauren Gunderson, illustrates what is right with live stage productions in the Duke City. Actors Studio 66, founded in 2021, is presenting a talented group of artists in a relevant, modern play. Additionally, they have revitalized the Aux Dog black box theater on Nob Hill as the Black Cat Cultural Center. This venue is just steps from Route 66 and the heart of nightlife in Albuquerque, and a heretofore popular performance space.

Lauren Gunderson is a much produced and lauded American playwright who brings a great facility for language and a measured sense of purpose to this play of ideas. Silent Sky is the true story of 19th-century astronomer Henrietta Leavitt. The play explores a woman's place in society and especially the workplace during this time of scientific discoveries. Gunderson reveals her characters through meaningful and often subtle interaction. She is considered a feminist, but she resists the urge to preach about the systemic marginalization of women. She also has the great good sense to write excellent roles for women.

The five-person cast has only one man; what a nice change of pace! This makes a statement in itself. These women encounter obstacles in pursuing their professional goals in astronomy, but the focus remains on their feelings and thoughts, not on the men who limit their possibilities. Henrietta works after hours to find answers to important questions about measuring the universe and makes a major contribution to the field in spite of being held back.

Four accomplished actresses bring the life of Astronomer Henrietta Leavitt and her family and colleagues to life with humor and warmth and rarely a strident note. Leading the cast is Caitlin Kelly as Henrietta Leavitt. Caitlin is making a name for herself in theaters throughout Albuquerque. Her quiet yet determined portrayal of Henrietta anchors this production with wit and humor.

Andra Beatty brings her considerable theatrical experience and training to Henrietta's sister, Margaret Leavitt, a woman who knows how to get along and help others but still retain her individuality. Henrietta's colleagues as "computers," as they are called in the Harvard Astronomy Observatory, are given life by Christine Grenier as Annie Cannon, the suffragette in the group, and by Kim Monti as Williamina Fleming, whose stalwart Scottish practicality and excellent Scottish accent bring lighter moments to the play. Jonathan Howard is an experienced, British-trained actor who manages to bring humor and charm to the role of Peter Shaw, the male antagonist.

Director Levi Gore has assembled this very talented cast to bring this science-based feminist play expertly to life. Levi has had several successes as an actor and director since relocating to Albuquerque from Austin in 2020. All aspects of the production come together well. The muted, minimal unit set supports the action. Kaylee Silcocks-Gore's costumes are well designed and appropriate for each character. All technical aspects enhance the pace and veracity of the drama.

This is a well-acted and carefully mounted production that is not to be missed. You will be entertained and you will definitely learn something about history and science as well as human empathy.

Silent Sky runs through February 11, 2024, at the Black Cat Cultural Center, 3011 Monte Vista Drive, Albuquerque NM. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. General Admission $20, Students $10. For tickets and information, please visit 310-251-6180