Company: American Blues Theater
Venue: Greenhouse Theater Center
A really good actress can disappear into a role so much so that you associate the character with her and don’t really realize that she is not really the portrayed character. This is what Gwendolyn Whiteside accomplishes as The Pilot in “Grounded”, currently playing at the Greenhouse Theater Center. For the duration of this 70-minute show (with no intermission), the American Blues Theater’s Artistic Director brings to life a woman who has the cocksure attitude of an Air Force hotshot.
We watch as The Pilot talks of loving to fly. And as we learn of the adrenaline rush that goes along with guiding the moves of an F-16, we also gain the knowledge that there is a disconnect between the moment when a pilot releases a barrage of weaponry upon a target and the human element of that action’s effects. The Pilot is long gone by the time her payload has destroyed its target.
After time away from the Force due to being pregnant and giving birth, The Pilot returns to active duty, but now as a drone pilot. Despite being thousands of miles away from her tactical targets, and being able to go home to her family every night, the war becomes infinitely closer to The Pilot as she is confronted with the actual effects of her deployed munitions. The eyes of a drone focus downward on its targets long after an F-16 pilot would be staring off into the blue miles away.
The script problems largely come down to a question of why is she telling us this? The play is performed in direct address to the audience. And so, who are we? It isn’t until the last 2 minutes of the play that we discover that we are surrogates for a Court Martial tribunal. But, what is staged isn’t in the spirit of a Court Martial. What we see on the stage is informative, and the character is one with whom we are able to identify. But, when it comes down to it, plot-wise, we don’t know what is at stake.
TEN WORD SUMMARY: Cocksure pilot gets reality check when she pulls trigger virtually.
RATING: d10- “Worth Going To”