Singularities Review – The Telescope is on the Ladies

Noelle Mercer and Avery Clyde in SINGULARITIES - Photo by Lizzy Kimball
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Penned and directed by Laura Stribling, SINGULARITIES makes its world premiere at the Road Theatre in 2024. Subtitled “The Computers of Venus,” the play features an all-female cast as astronomers in three different time periods as they grapple with sexism, love, and the infinite. So what is a singularity? Scientists have attempted to define the term for years. Loosely, it is the place in the universe where our laws of physics break down, a term first used by Einstein in his 1915 Theory of Relativity. More precisely (or perhaps less), it is the center of a black hole, a point of infinite density within which no object inside can ever escape, not even light. To clarify, singularity is the mathematical result of a flawed physical theory – in other words, the errors that appear in our current theories – and not about objects that really exist.

Krishna Smitha and Lizzy Kimball – Photo by Brian Graves

The setting is an observatory, and the time is all over the place from the earliest days of the study of the skies to the present. Into this time machine are tossed a number of females who are obsessed with the universe – even when their contributions are not recognized or even approved of. We have Caroline Herschel (Avery Clyde) and Elizabeth Leland (Noelle Mercer), the earliest of the observers of the heavens. Then there are Maria Mitchell (Susan Diol) and Julia Ward Howe (Blaire Chandler) representing the nineteenth century. Finally, we have Sophia Winlock (Krishna Smitha) and Leria Cushman (Kate Huffman), the contemporary seekers of truth. All will face the challenges of a female in the scientific community as they also deal with their own goal and sexual expression.

Susan Diol and Blaire Chandler – Photo by Lizzy Kimball

Clearly, as writer and director, Stribling has a special understanding of her characters over the millennia. The cast does an excellent job of portraying the women, often conflicted but always keeping an eye on the ultimate goal. Brian Graves’ set design keeps the otherworldly quality of the tale in focus, ably assisted by Ben Rock’s projection designs of the heavens, David B. Marling’s sound, and Derrick McDaniel’s lighting. And let’s not forget about Jenna Bergstraesser’s costumes.

Noelle Mercer and Avery Clyde – Photo by Lizzy Kimball

At first glance, SINGULARITIES appears to be a quasi-documentary about women in astronomy; however, this idea is quickly dispelled as the play seems rather to focus on each woman’s personal search for identity, meaning, and belonging. Astronomy could easily have been replaced by any other scientific endeavor with the same results. The production should appeal to an audience concerned about women’s place in science, as well as women’s search for personal fulfillment.

Blaire Chandler and Susan Diol – Photo by Lizzy Kimball

Singularities runs through June 2, 2024, with performances 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. Performances continue in repertory beginning on 4/25/24. The Road Theatre website has details about the performance schedule. The Road Theatre is located in the NoHo Senior Arts Colony, 10747 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, CA. Tickets are $39 (students and seniors $20; Sundays Pay-What-You-Can; special group rates for 8+). For information and reservations, call 818-761-8838 or go online.


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