BWW Review: GROUNDED at Thinking Cap Theatre
Slipping The Surlies
Take a minute or two to read the following poem before you go to see GROUNDED and the brilliant Niki Fridh in her one woman show at Thinking Cap Theatre.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, --and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of --Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air...
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew --
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
Nineteen year old American John Gillespie Magee wrote "High Flight" just before his death in England in 1941. He was flying a Spitfire for the Royal Canadian Air Force.
I venture there are not many fighter pilots who've not read this masterpiece and sometimes announced they're "going to slip the surlies".
On a simple stage, against a flashing video background, Niki Fridh, as a nameless fighter pilot, a Major in the United States Air Force, streams a tale of the wonders of flying her F16 in the Middle East.
She's a kick ass woman, proud of her brains and guts and drive. She's a fighter jock all the way in her Olive Green flight suit, more decals than a NASCAR racer, topped with the ultimate insignia, her silver wings. And the dark Ray-Bans. You can't strut your stuff without the shades. And strutting your stuff is what it's all about. The arrogance of the insider, home on leave from the desert, hero stories defined by swooping hands and lips smacked with glowing satisfaction. Civilians keep out. You don't qualify. You haven't hit the blue at 1500 knots. You never will. Too bad. These stories aren't for you. Swagger, surrounded by "your boys". Life can't get better. Until Eric, he works in a Las Vegas lumber yard, shoves his way through the drinking clique in the bar, elbows "her boys" aside and gets in her face and the novelty of his effort entrances her. Her fall begins.
In brutally frank language she describes her lovemaking with Eric before she returns to the desert. And then she finds she's pregnant. Her commanding officer grounds her and sends her back to Las Vegas where she marries Eric and has their daughter.
She tries to get back into her beloved F16 but the USAF has other ideas and she's assigned to piloting an unmanned drone over the desert. She's in the "Chair Force". She's sitting at a desk at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, clutching the control column of her Predator drone. "Her boys" are gone. Now she has a nineteen year old airman sitting beside her. He's manning the cameras in her drone. She stares at the desert floor seventy five hundred miles away. Twelve hours a day, killing the enemy remotely, every detail of death revealed. Her replacement taps her shoulder. Twelve hours home with her family, dealing with her daughter's pink ponies and a civilian husband.
Slipping the surlies can no longer save her.
Scenic art and costume design by Alyiece Moretto, projection design by Cat Del Buono and lighting by Eric Nelson.
Photo of Niki Fridh by Nicole Stodard
GROUNDED plays through April 15 at The Vanguard, 1501 S. Andrews Avenue, Ft. Lauderdal. 964-610-7263 http://www.thinkingcaptheatre.com
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