More than a Flight Play – “Grounded”

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Review by Marcina Zaccaria

 

 

“Grounded” is a poignant story of an ace fighter pilot who finds herself grounded after a tactical error.

It is a sophisticated story.  The Pilot, played by Hannah Cabell, is reassigned to operate the military drones from a trailer outside Las Vegas.  The play deals with how The Pilot reacts in extreme and stressful situations.  Cabell’s performance reveals not only the joy of flying, but also the depth and perception that she gains while in flight.  When the height and the enormity becomes beyond belief, she almost breaks.  The Pilot makes a wrong move and is grounded.

With “Grounded,” playwright George Brant has written a play that isn’t so much poetic as it is striking.  The words are quick, and the images are abundant.  The Pilot is a compelling figure, and she’s not everyone.  With a career in the air force, a husband, and a new child, she seems to have it all.   In the beginning of the play, she describes the difference between the blues of the sky and the pink of her daughter’s face.  It was affecting.  As The Pilot becomes lost in the grays and the feelings that she struggles to distinguish, the play proves to be captivating and informative.

Hannah Cabell is a smart, sensitive performer.  She is forthright and resolute.  Commanding in her tone and in her demeanor, she describes the appeal of being a pilot with the American air force.  Metered, impassioned, and proud, Cabell also sings the praises of family life.  The audience understands her as a complex figure.  Losing her ability to fly with the air force is devastating, and the audience can feel her grief at the end of the play.

Ken Rus Schmoll is an accomplished director.  He guides the audience through each maneuver.  The last moment of the show is quite poignant.  The audience finds The Pilot court marshalled and alone.  She remains empty, without the skies and without her family.  The design team creates a spare set for Cabell.  The set and costume design for “Grounded” is by Arnulfo Maldonado.  Noted costume details include the American flag on The Pilot’s arm.  Lighting design is by Garin Marschall, and the sound design is by Jane Shaw.  Together, they have made an uncomplicated statement.  As the play progresses, we hear the sound of the roaring planes in the air, as the colors lightly shift on a white screen behind Cabell.  It’s never loud enough to feel like a sonic boom or bright enough to blind the audience, but it is powerful enough to raise the tension in the air.  All in all, it’s cohesive, and stands in support of Cabell’s 70 minute monologue on the stage.

“Grounded” is the winner of the 2012 Smith Prize, presented by the National New Play Network to honor a new play on American political themes.  “Grounded” won the Fringe First Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  “Grounded” was also performed at the Gate Theatre in London.

“Grounded” is playing until February 1st at Walkerspace located at 46 Walker Street.  Tickets are available online at page73.org/tickets or by phone at 1-866-811-4111.

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