Theater Review: SINGULARITIES OR THE COMPUTERS OF VENUS (World Premiere at Road Theatre)

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by Shari Barrett on May 8, 2024

in Theater-Los Angeles


The World Premiere of Singularities or the Computers of Venus, written and directed by Laura Stribling, runs through Sunday, June 2 at The Road Theatre in North Hollywood. Set in three different time periods from 1789 through the present, it examines the lives of women astronomers as they grapple with light, love, and the infinite while attempting to make a name for themselves in the male-dominated world of scientific research.

Noelle Mercer & Avery Clyde (photo Lizzy Kimball)

Centering around the search for a better understanding of the stars, galaxies, comets, and nebulas, as well and their past, future, and personal limits keeping them from succeeding in a field populated mostly by men, six women take us from the time when women could not speak up or take credit for their own work or sexuality, to the era when Women’s Rights came into being, up to present day where women are able to enjoy exploring their sexuality and research on equal footing, if not the pay scale, of men working in the same field.

Susan Diol and Blaire Chandler (photo by Peggy McCartha)

Featured in Singularities as they appear chronologically: Avery Clyde as early female astronomer Caroline Hershel who must allow her male boss to take credit for her heavenly discoveries; Noelle Mercer as Elizabeth Leland, a young married woman longing for more than just being a wife by assisting in Caroline’s discoveries; Susan Diol as noted astronomer Maria Mitchell; Blaire Chandler as Julia Ward Howe, the well-known suffragette and writer of the pro-Union, anti-slavery anthem “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”; and Lizzy Kimball as modern “astrophysicist cosmologist” Lena Cushman and Krishna Smitha as her lover and assistant Sophia Winlock.

While the actors were dedicated to honest portrayals of their characters, I really enjoyed Chandler’s outspoken take of the beautifully bustle-clad Julia Ward Howe (Jenna Bergstraesser, costumes). So thorough was her dedication to the important figure in women’s rights that I immediately went home to read up about this true American icon, born in 1819 and gone in 1910, nine years before women won the right the vote.

Lizzy Kimball and Krishna Smitha (photo by Brian Graves)

Singularities does need some serious editing, perhaps down to a 90-minute one act rather than a two-hour, two-act play. For while the first act seemed too long due to the unnecessary repetition of items shared at a glacial pace, the second act moved from scene to scene and time to time with alacrity as each couple journeyed ahead a few years during their time frame, acknowledging how far women have come and how much farther we hope to go.

And it’s clear, as Julia shares, they are all working on the “emancipation of the female mind,” recognizing themselves as the foundation upon which women will flourish in their future chosen fields. No doubt it will get you thinking about those who have contributed to allowing you to live your life to the fullest now and how we can set an even better path for those who will follow in our footsteps.

Blaire Chandler and Susan Diol (photo by Peggy McCartha)

Adding to the out-of-this-world setting are brilliant space projections designed by Ben Rock which appear as if looking through the imaginary telescope which the women lower to look through to study the sky. And no matter the time frame, such sights will always dazzle humanity, whether looking at the amazing images from deep space via James Webb Space Telescope, or donning special glasses to look directly at the sun during the recent solar eclipse, Space will continue to fascinate us, wondering where our real place is as sentient beings in the universe.

photos by Peggy McCartha, Brian Graves and Lizzy Kimball

Singularities or the Computers of Venus
performs in rep with High Maintenance
The Road Theatre Company
NoHo Senior Arts Colony, 10747 Magnolia Blvd. in North Hollywood
ends on June 2, 2024
for tickets ($20-$39), call 818.761.8838 or visit Road Theatre
Sundays Pay-What-You-Can

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