Lauren Gunderson’s play “Silent Sky,” opening this week in a regional premiere at Pygmalion Productions, seems grounded in the cultural zeitgeist as it tells a sweeping, starlit story about another hidden figure in science.
“Sky” is based on the groundbreaking discoveries of Henrietta Leavitt and her female colleagues, who in the early 20th century were employed with other women as human “computers” at Harvard College Observatory, charting the stars for a renowned male astronomer.
Henrietta isn’t allowed to use the sophisticated telescope. But her irrepressible ambition drives her to explore how to calculate the size of the universe based on the variable brightness of stars, while she’s negotiating the scale of other relationships in her life.
“Following this curiosity was not easy,” Henrietta tells her male boss, who has a crush on her. “I had to insist, which requires a dedicated desire unmatched by reason, which is called passion.”