BWW Reviews: CoHo Productions' GROUNDED Is a Forceful Reminder of Why Theatre Is Important
If you know anyone who needs to be convinced that theatre is important, send them to see GROUNDED, playing this month at CoHo Productions. This may be the most important play to grace Portland stages this year.
GROUNDED is a one-woman tour de force by George Brant, starring Rebecca Lingafelter and directed by Isaac Lamb. The play is about an unnamed fighter pilot in Iraq and Afghanistan who meets a man at a bar one night, and then finds herself pregnant and "grounded," or prohibited from flying. When she returns to her post, now with a husband and a daughter, she finds that the new war is not fought from planes, but from chairs...in the desert outside Las Vegas. As she learns to fly drones and become a member of the "chair force," she struggles to reconcile the woman who goes to work every day to hunt "the guilty" with the woman who returns home every night to kiss her husband and her daughter to sleep.
There is so much going on in this play, it's hard to know where to start. There is the morality of drone warfare, which is particularly relevant now as this very issue is being debated on the national and international levels. There is the dehumanizing effect of war, both for those who are targets and for those who are doing the targeting. There is the conflict between being a "normal" person with a life and a family and being a person whose job it is to kill others, who also have lives and families. There is the idea that, today, there is nothing private -- someone is always watching. And those are just a few of the things you will leave the theatre talking about.
GROUNDED is a difficult play -- a well-written, important, difficult play. It requires an actor who can be strong and brash and "just one of the guys," and at the same time so achingly vulnerable and human. Lingafelter is that actor, and with nothing but a chair and a few sound and lighting effects, she commands the stage for a full 80 minutes in what feels at times like a high-speed chase to an uncertain conclusion. If you aren't careful, you might forget to breathe.
GROUNDED runs at CoHo Theater through May 23. For tickets, visit www.cohoproductions.org.
Photo credit: Owen Carey