Northern Stage: Be Wowed Now
Grounded, a one woman play. Buckle up tight!
From womb to tomb in a span of 70 minutes. The time never flew so quickly for me as I watched one anonymous, almost androgynous, former Air Force jet pilot move around a set so abundantly full of emotion and energy in her green flight suit.
Grounded, a one-woman drama of high-flying technology and power-punching empathy now playing at Northern Stage in White River Junction, VT through April 2, 2017, is a show you need to see.
Set on a stage of bolted together slabs of heavy metal rectangles reminiscent of warfare's bullet-proof armor, or the inside of a high tech pyramid, there seems to be no way out for actor Megan Anderson as she plays a female fighter pilot who once flew her "Tiger" fighter jet on bombing sorties over Iraq. She moves through love, and an individually-acted sexual monologue that nearly has us in bed with her, feeling her emotions and passions, eager for whatever comes next.
Technology surrounding her, this drone pilot merges with her new world. Lighting and special effects pull the audience in with a dazzling display and array of sight and sound.
But what comes next tears her apart. Pregnancy. A daughter. A move into what is so un-affectionately termed the "Chair Force." A move to Las Vegas and long drives through the desert to Creech Air Force base where this drone pilot sits in the relative safety of a chair in a trailer with her finger on the button of a joy stick, guiding an $11 million drone aircraft to destroy dark shapes of convoys peopled by faceless humans. Then, she sees body parts fly as she bombs people in the desert. Her deep psychological self takes over and she becomes her own deity, an "eye in the sky," that can control all.
Anderson's brilliantly-acted aerial pursuit of a "prophet" who has a daughter sends this newly-anointed demigod of a drone pilot, some 8,000 mile away from her targets, into deep despair and anguish. She begins to lose control, even as she believes she has control over her aircraft, her weaponry, and her targets. Her safety and her ability to function with her family get called into question, even though she is distanced from the actual war. Tracer bullets are no longer her reality to dodge in her F-15, but the trace emotions of her daughter and husband she leaves behind each day and returns to each evening leave indelible imprints on her psyche. Humanity in the face of technology and modern warfare are called into question. Can they co-exist? What is safety if we can't live with ourselves? Or if we can't tell our children and partners what we do at work each day? Silence and confidentiality, along with the power technology wields over us and allows us to wield over others, all move to center stage. These are deep, searching issues the script raises well.
The reality of technology and its impact on an individual tasked with using the latest tools in modern warfare to kill from a distance, watching a colorless screen for 12 hours a day, killing as the unseen host of the battle, alerts us to the grip and squeeze of modern life on our minds. Perhaps this show, now here in Vermont, offers good reason why people escape to the Green Mountain State for comfort in nature. Perhaps it raises much larger questions of what technology means as it wreaks havoc through war. Perhaps the war with technology is more personal—more of a war within ourselves, with our subconscious minds unable to cope with the bombardment of data and information rained down upon us every minute of every day. Perhaps it develops questions of how technology can ruin our relationships when we spend too much time with screens as our guides. Or, perhaps, it begs the question of how far is too far for the human brain when relationships with real people are destroyed because of the technological blanket in which we cloak ourselves all too tightly.
Anderson, as drone pilot, in her womb or her tomb. You decide. Grounded raises vital questions of the capacity of the human mind in the face of technology and warfare. Motherhood, relationships, the ability to withstand becoming a virtual robot, are all in play in this riveting drama. Anderson's performance far exceeds expectations.
Everyone over the age of 16 should see Grounded (there's some pretty strong language in it). While it's not for the faint of heart, it's worth the introspective 70 minutes as actor Megan Anderson takes us deep inside her psyche, articulating all her thoughts as a fighter pilot, a lover, a drone pilot, a mother. She's a potent force on stage to be sure. And the forces that pursue her, surround her, and overwhelm her are ones we'll all have to reckon with sooner rather than later in this age of technology. May as well get a leg up.
Buckle up, and cinch your seatbelt tight for this one. It's a white-knuckle ride that will have your heart rate pounding as you grip your armrests and feel the g-forces Anderson's solid performance emanates. This show will push you into a new reality—into yourself. Bravo.
[NB: If this is the new direction of Northern Stage, that is, bringing world-class acting talent and highly touted, award-winning shows into White River Junction, I'm all for it. Megan Anderson is from Baltimore, and according to IMDb, she is "an actress, known for Hit and Run (2009), The Wire (2002) and Makebelieve (2000). She is married to Kyle Prue." And this from the georgebrandt.net web page: "Grounded was first produced in a Rolling World Premiere from NNPN (SF Playhouse, Borderlands Theater, and Unicorn Theatre) and by London's Gate Theatre. Its New York premiere was produced by Page 73. It has subsequently received over 100 productions in 18 different countries and has been translated into 9 languages." It's a tight script without holes. Impressive writing and acting come together to make this show at Northern Stage a must see.]
Northern Stage's “Grounded,” is a one-woman drama by George Brant. It shows March 15-April 2 at the Barrette Center for the Arts, 74-76 Gates St. in White River Junction. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, plus Tuesday, March 21 ($20); 5 p.m. Sunday; and 2 p.m. matinees Thursdays, March 23 and 30, and Friday, April 1. Tickets are $30-$55, $15 for students; call 802-296-7000, or go online to https://northernstage.org.
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The arts are alive and growing in White River Junction. Dave Celone is a writer, poet, fundraiser, and art gallery owner. Dave and the Long River Gallery artist collective of some 170 local-area artists and artisans have now opened a gallery just around the corner from Northern Stage at 49 South Main Street in White River Junction. Please visit. You'll be happy you did!
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