The play Grounded by George Brant is an interesting concept. It poses questions about the modern military and the role of women in the traditional male roles of service. It also examines the depersonalization of combat through robotics and in particular drone warfare. When we first meet the pilot played by Alexis Scott she is still a hands on pilot, flying a plane in a real life eternally blue sky. She revels in the the Air Force fraternity and knowing that she is an isolated sister in the testosterone infused world of the flight officer.
After having gone through pregnancy and motherhood, the pilot returns to work only to find that technology has dramatically altered the life she knew. Through the use of drone, the blue experience of actual flying has been replaced by grey humdrum of monitors and remote control. She finds herself travelling from one screen at work to another one at home. I don’t believe that the author’s point is that war is less horrible or more glorious in real life. I think his intent is more about the numbing effect of technology that might actually be an impediment to diagnosing the prevalence of PTSD and other stress related side effects of war.
Although Alexis Scott’s performance was sure footed, I unfortunately never felt the full force of the exhilarating blue, so consequently the bondage that enslaves her spirit when she is forced to sit in front of a monitor and judge and execute people by decision of a committee didn’t work fully. It was not profoundly moving.
Director Eleanor Crowder may have wanted the words to carry the story, that is a powerful task for a single actor, that requires a full tool bag of bells and whistles however subtly they are used. The movements repeated as did the emotions but they didn’t pulse strongly enough.
Daniel Claxton’s sound did not help as it seemed to have more static than needed. There were references to static in the play but the clarity of Raphael Weinroth-Browne’s cello and sound effects as well as the actors voice seemed to be competing with the radio effects. David Magladry’s lighting provided effects that helped focus some of the drama.
In the end for me it was an interesting concept that has not yet been fully exposed. The interesting questions are there, but the passion was not what it could have been nor was it particularly illuminating.
The Pilot Alexis Scott
Director Eleanor Crowder
Stage Manager Rosemary Nolan
Lighting Designer David Magladry
Sound Designer Daniel Claxton
Cello and Sound Effects Raphael Weinroth-Browne