BY MIKE COOK
Las Cruces Bulletin
LAS CRUCES – New Mexico State University Theatre Arts Department’s production of “Silent Sky” has five onstage stars, at least five backstage stars and rates five stars.
Director Claudia Billings, costume designer Juneice Robinson, sound designer Daniel Miller, set and lighting designer Jim Billings and stage manager Mike Wise and an outstanding cast create a show that leaves you contemplating the wonders of the universe and the mysteries of the human heart.
There is a sweetness flowing through the production that made me think of that extra note that doesn’t exist separately but only in a choir that is perfectly tuned.
Three of the play’s characters are based on real people, including Henrietta Leavitt (a strong and graceful performance by Jaidan Jaramillo), who discovered how to measure the universe while working as a “computer” in the Harvard University observatory in the early 20th century. Leavitt showed that the universe is expanding, and she opened doors for women in astronomy and the sciences.
Jim Billings’ stunning set and lighting design will take your breath away. Robinson’s costumes reflected that cosmic theme brilliantly; I especially loved Jaramillo’s stellar (and interstellar) shawl in the final scene. Jenna Ivey’s a cappella renditions of Miller’s original music made for beautiful transitions.
As you would hope in a play about scientists, there is wonderful onstage chemistry here. The scenes between Jaramillo’s Leavitt and Isaac Lucero’s Peter Shaw are captivating. Like the Sun and Earth in different seasons, they are close and warm, then distant and cold. Jaramillo had the same strong but light-hearted interplay with Leavitt’s imaginary sister, Margaret (Ivey), and with her real-life lab partners Annie Cannon (Molly Schafer) and Williamina Fleming (E Gallegos).
All five cast members are NMSU theatre students and their performances credit the department. They Skyped with playwright Lauren Gunderson a couple of weeks ago.
Lucero is the only senior in the cast. From Rif Raff in NMSU’s “Rocky Horror Picture Show” to Tito Morelli in Las Cruces Community Theatre’s 2018 production of “Lend Me A Tenor,” his is doing outstanding work on Las Cruces stages.
Remaining performances of “Silent Sky” are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 1-2 and matinees at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, March 2-3, at the ASNMSU Center for the Arts, 1000 E. University Ave. A talkback with cast and crew and NMSU Astronomy Department staff follows the March 2 performance.
For tickets, call 575-646-1420 or visit www.nmsutheatre.com/boxoffice.php.
Mike Cook may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.