BWW Reviews: Fighter Pilot to be GROUNDED Opens at the Unicorn Theatre in Kansas City
Patrons of the Unicorn Theatre could feel the anguish of war as they watched it unfold in the Jerome Theatre. Grounded, a play by award winning playwright George Brant opened on Saturday night January 25 at the Unicorn Theatre in Kansas City. The Guardian and London Evening Standard named Grounded one of the Top 10 London Plays of 2013. Elephant's Graveyard, Three Voyages of the Lobotomobile, Defiant, and The Lonesome Hoboes are among his many other plays.
Grounded a one-actor play received its Rolling World Premiere at the Unicorn Theatre, in conjunction with the National New Play Network. In 2012, the Unicorn Theatre hosted a stage reading of the play and it opened in San Francisco in September of 2013.
In her 35th season with the Unicorn, Cynthia Levin directed the production. She is a founding board member of the National New Play Network and a graduate of Park University, which awarded her an Honorary Doctorate in 2002. As a director, actor, designer, and producer she has been involved in over 260 productions at the Unicorn Theatre. Her credits in 2013 as a director at the theatre include Venus in Fur, My Name is Asher Lev, and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson among others.
Performed in the round the production called for minimal costumes (a flight suit worn by The Pilot and the stagehand who brought chairs to and from the stage), scenery, and props. Lighting by Alex Perry played a larger part in the production as did the sound design by Greg Mackender.
An F16 pilot flying combat sorties over Afghanistan returns home on leave, meets a man, and discovers on her return to the war that she is pregnant. She takes a leave of absence to have and care for the baby and returning to active duty discovers she no longer has status as a fighter pilot, but must report to Las Vegas to pilot remotely control drones.
The character development by Brant is realistic and superb, as she covets her position as a fighter pilot, gets married, reluctantly accepts the flying of the unmanned aircraft, has her first combat experience with the drone, and suffers from nightmares and hallucinations related to the killing of the guilty as she describes them. The production makes the audience wonder if this traumatic stress does effect the armed forces and how many may be plagued by the night sweats anxiety caused by war, even when involved from thousands of miles away.
Carla Noack returns to the Unicorn Theatre as The Pilot. She has appeared in the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival and Time Stands among others. She teaches acting in the MFA program at the University of Missouri at Kansas City and directed first-year MFA students in Troilus and Cressida. Her performance in Grounded is dynamic and powerful allowing the audience to experience the stress of her character as she digresses from a confident assertive fighter to a cowering soldier afraid to push a button on the highly armed drone.
Noack stars in Grounded on the Jerome Stage, inside the Unicorn Theatre through February 9th.