The recent “Great American Eclipse” aligned the stars perfectly for International City Theatre.
That once-in-a-lifetime event coincided with ICT’s opening of “Silent Sky,” a drama that pretty much spends most of its time looking upward at the nighttime skies as its astronomer characters try to unlock the mysteries of the universe.
Lauren Gunderson’s play, which premiered at South Coast Repertory in 2011, charts the life and career of Henrietta Swan Leavitt. A “human computer” at the Harvard Observatory in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Leavitt made math-based computations that led to a crucial discovery, the foundation for astronomers like Edwin Hubble in determining the size of the universe.
Leavitt, glowingly portrayed by Jennifer Cannon, takes a philosophical, quasi-religious, big-picture view of the heavens as something meant to inspire awe and mute human nature’s tendency for self-flattery – a point underscored by Gunderson’s quoting of the Walt Whitman poem “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer.”
Leavitt, as Gunderson shows us, is convinced that solving the riddle of the Cepheids (the stars she studies) will unlock the universe’s…