Strong performance and script make Grounded an engaging evening of theatre
George Brant’s play Grounded opened at Streetcar Crowsnest on Friday, February 14. The play is a solo piece, a monologue delivered by an unnamed US fighter pilot — a woman. Being a pilot is her life; she has a closer relationship with her plane than she does with any person.
It’s presented in The Scotiabank Community Studio, which is a small theatre. Director Kerry Ann Doherty’s use of traverse staging adds to this intimacy.
Melanie McNeil’s set is minimal, two low piles of sand that run the length of the stage, suggesting the desert. The only prop is an office chair on wheels.
Michael Brunet’s lighting design sets the time and the place, it lets the audience know whether it’s day or night, whether the pilot is in the desert, at home, or in the trailer flying a drone. Thom Marriott’s sound design completes the mood.
Carly Street plays The Pilot. She embodies the role. She speaks in short, clipped sentences. Her stance and her walk are almost masculine. She’s tough.
She loves flying; she loves her plane, the speed, the G force. She loves her flying suit. She earned it. It’s hers, and she never wants to take it off. She loves going to the bar for a few beers with ‘her boys.’ She’s tightly wound.
Brant’s language is almost poetic when The Pilot talks about flying. She talks about her seat holding her, the speed of the plane, and the blue.
And then she doesn’t. She meets Eric in a bar. She gets pregnant. She’s grounded.
Street portrays The Pilot’s conflicting emotions perfectly; how much she wants the baby and how much she wants the ‘blue,’ how much she wants to fly, how surprised she is when she realizes she’s in love with Eric, how much she loves Sam – her daughter – and how much she needs to fly again. She softens slightly.
Slowly she tightens up again.
Her rage and disgust are palpable when she reports back for active duty and discovers that’s she’s going to be piloting a drone in the ‘chair force.’ But she obeys orders.
Seven days a week she kisses Eric, kisses the baby, and goes out to kick ass. She drives through one desert to wage war in another. After 12 hours, she drives home. “War, like it’s shift work.”
And the shifts take their toll.
It’s not easy to play someone falling apart slowly and convincingly on stage. Street nails it. Gradually the cadence of her speech changes. The pitch of her voice rises. She fidgets when she talks. She touches her face, rubbing her nose and clearing the corners of her eyes.
Grounded was first performed in 2012 when drones were new to warfare. The play has aged well. It lends itself to some interesting questions and discussion. I particularly like Brant’s use of language, his classical references and technical language in the same sentence, the way some of his descriptions are almost poetic.
Street’s strong performance makes for an engaging evening of theatre. Definitely worth seeing.
- Grounded is playing until February 29 at Streetcar Crowsnest (345 Carlaw Ave)
- Performance times: Tuesday through Saturday @ 8:00 pm, Matinees Saturday and Sunday @ 2:30 pm
- Tickets are $29, $20 for students/seniors arts workers
- Tickets are available online, by phone at 647-341-7390 ext. 1010, and in-person at the box office
Photo of Carly Street provided by the company