Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

Silent Sky
Clague Playhouse
Review by Mark Horning

Pam Matthews, Brittany Gaul and Molly Clay
Photo by Terry Schordock
Clague Playhouse has a knack for picking topical plays that fascinate, entertain and enlighten. This is especially true of their current production of Lauren Gunderson's Silent Sky.

The play takes place in two time periods and sets of locations (1900 to 1905 / Wisconsin and Harvard; and 1910 to 1918 / Harvard, Boston and Cambridge). It is the story of Henrietta Leavitt (Brittany Gaul), a brilliant mathematician and astronomer who is hired by Harvard University. Thinking that her hiring will be a chance for her to break the glass ceiling of an all-male profession, she quickly learns that she will simply be joining a group of women "computers" who pore over glass photo plates looking for various celestial bodies. The women are strictly forbidden any access to the giant telescope.

Having left her family in Wisconsin and using her dowry for living expenses, she has no choice but to tow the line as ordered. With access to the plates she begins to see a pattern emerge. Called home for a family emergency (and taking the glass plates with her), Henrietta begins to theorize while listening to her sister Margaret (Jill Kenderes), a gifted musician, playing the piano. Her thought is that if sound is made up of waves, then why not light, and could the pulse of the light be used to measure distance?

This major breakthrough makes her famous in the scientific community even though she is banned from expanding on her theory. Thrown into the mix is Peter Shaw, with whom she falls in love, as well as her two coworkers Annie Cannon (Pam Mathews), a feisty Scottish lady who will stand up for what is right, and Willamina Fleming (Molly Clay), a no-nonsense type who carefully follows the rules of the University while supporting the Suffragette Society in town.

The acting of this ensemble is superb as they give an extremely realistic portrayal of these historical figures. Brittany Gaul (Henrietta) is excellent as the socially awkward woman who is virtually married to science. Jill Kenderes does a fine job as Margaret, who shows support for her sister while also showing her own brilliance in the arts. Andrew Keller (Peter) is convincing as Henrietta's love interest who must later make a choice. Pam Matthews is a delight as Annie, the Scottish firebrand who gets most of the laughs, and Molly Clay plays Willamina, a closet modern woman waiting for a chance to burst forth.

The work is aptly directed by Curt Arnold. Original music is supplied by Jenny Giering. The minimalistic yet functional set by Ron Newell allows the audience to concentrate solely on the action. Charles Hargrave's sound design works well for the small areas well as Lance Switzer's lighting design. Jenniver Sparano does a superb job of costume design, clothing the actors in early turn of the century outfits that adds to the realism.

This is a fine work to take the entire family to for an enlightening evening of theater.

The Clague Playhouse production of Silent Sky explores an intriguing story of the on-going battle of females fighting to get recognized for their brilliance in the sciences and arts. It makes for interesting conversation after the play. Well worth seeing.

Silent Sky, through March 31, 2018, at Clague Playhouse, 1371 Clague Road, Westlake OH. Performances are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets may be purchased online by going to or by phone by calling (440) 331-0403.

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