follow us on

Here's What We Think About Highly Women-Centric Plays "Silent Sky" And "Every Brilliant Thing"

Two highly women-centric plays have just started their respective runs, ushering in this 2019 theater season. At the RCBC’s CPR Theater, it’s Rep and Reine’s "Silent Sky;" and over at the 2nd level of the Maybank Performing Arts Theater BGC is Sandbox Collective’s production of "Every Brilliant Thing." Both deal with numbers in different ways—and while "Silent Sky" plays like a hidden figures about women and astronomy, "Every Brilliant Thing" takes on mental health in an associative and illuminating manner.
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Meet the cast of Silent Sky 2019! ?? Cathy Azanza-Dy as Henrietta Leavitt, Bibeth Orteza as Annie Cannon, Topper Fabregas as Peter Shaw, Caisa Borromeo as Margaret Leavitt, and Naths Everette as Williamina Fleming. Directed by REP Artistic Director Joy Virata, Silent Sky takes us on Henrietta Leavitt's journey of breaking barriers and defying convention in pursuit of knowledge, and bears witness to all the things she had to give up--love, health, and even her own conflicting dreams -- in order to understand the wondrous secrets of the cosmos. ?? Tickets available through Ticketworld or call 09175378313 for block buying and student rates. See you at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza. 'Silent Sky' plays Feb 1-3, and 8-10. Fri and Sat at 8pm, Sat and Sun matinees at 3pm. #SilentSkyMNL #SilentSkyRCBC #SilentSky2019

A post shared by Silent Sky MNL (@silentskymnl) on

 

 

With "Silent Sky," written by Lauren Gunderson and directed by Joy Virata, we're thrust into a period piece, following the life and career of partially deaf Henrietta Leavitt (Cathy Azanza-Dy), a Harvard College Observatory researcher and "computer" in the 1930s. As a woman in the male-dominated world of science and astronomy, she wasn’t allowed to touch a telescope or express an original idea; and yet, from the photometry plates and data, and her own brilliance, she discovered the information that allowed us to compute and determine the distance to the stars—in papers published from 1908-1912. 

 



Based on true events, but I presume fictionalized to add drama, humor and pathos, "Silent Sky" is a strong, pro-feminist piece that carries a lot of charm and laughs. There’s even a romance tacked on, with the dorky assistant professor played by Topper Fabregas. Naths Everett as the Scottish housekeeper turned scientist Wilhelmina Fleming and Bibeth Orteza as Department Head/suffragette Annie Cannon provide much of the humor and lightness—Naths ever-ready with the quip and aside, and Bibeth as foil, via being the stern and sardonic quartermaster. 

 

 

It’s an old school type of historical theater drama; but still carrying a potent reminder for today. The superfluous romance really works in drawing "awwws" from the audience; so you can’t fault the writer for adding this element, as it turns this play with a message into a crowd pleaser.

Duncan Macmillan’s "Every Brilliant Thing" is directed by Jenny Jamora and is converted into a one-woman play starring Teresa Herrera—although technically there is one male stage hand and she employs members of the audience in an interactive manner to make it an inclusive theater experience. The gist behind Teresa’s character is how she’s the daughter of a woman who tries to commit suicide on more than one occasion. So the play explores the life of said daughter as a young girl, college student, and adult—constantly living under the shadow of her mother’s psychodrama and tendencies—even to the point of worrying if it could be hereditary. 

 

READ: "Every Brilliant Thing" Is The Play About Depression That Will Leave You Feeling Joyful

 

 

It’s a great premise, and it’s evident from the script, there’s a lot of humor and compassion despite the morbid and depressing subject matter. To try and convince her mother that life is worth living, the main (and only) character of the drama starts compiling a list of the brilliant things that exist and they expand as she passes through stages of her life, which we see unfold in the course of the play. There are even moments when she brings in her father, a crush and eventual boyfriend; and in the case of the father, she takes on his part in the dialogue that ensues. All gimmicky and it works; but I was left wondering why Macmillan didn't bring onstage the most potentially fascinating character, the Mom, and she’s only elliptically referred to.
 

 

When receiving his Critics' Choice Award for Best Actor, Christian Bale said that "acting is about embracing humiliation." And honestly, if I have to critique the play, I would have wanted to see more of that. Teresa is already a personality in her own right; and the play came to me more like "Look, I’m Teresa and I’m acting," as opposed to us forgetting it was Teresa, and we were watching some psychologically fragile woman taking us through her life—especially in a one-woman play, it’s important to astound us. Prosthetics, substantive costume changes, a different attack? I can’t say for certain what would have elevated this to be a more unique acting experiment that would have left my mouth hanging—is Teresa a victim of her own celeb status, or was I expecting too much? I know it’s not fair to compare, but I was remembering Missy Maramara last year in the one-woman Rody Vera-penned Filipino adaptation of "A Woman is a Half-Formed Thing" about sexual abuse, where one would really get lost in her transitions and kinetic energy.

But yes, these are two highly recommended plays that once again, thankfully, demonstrate how theater is truly alive and well here in Manila. And I love how they’re not musicals, but dramas that take on serious subject matters and themes, and yet manage to entertain—great choices from the theater companies involved.

 

Photos from @sandboxco @silentskymnl