BWW Review: GROUNDED Soars at Virginia Stage Company

BWW Review: GROUNDED Soars at Virginia Stage Company

In cold, gray, industrial abstraction The Pilot describes in euphoric detail what it means to be surrounded in blue. We are never given the blue she sees. What we do get is a precisely projected wash of fluid blue light swirling on the large steely walls that line the perimeter of her world and we can only dream of that kind of blue she describes. She is a top level fighter pilot that has been restricted from flying because of her unexpected pregnancy and upon her return to duty she is reassigned to drone piloting, a decidedly 'less than' occupation in her opinion. I suppose as an audience we never get the blue she describes because she can no longer have it. This is George Brant's Grounded, the newest theatrical offering from the Virginia Stage Company at the Wells Theatre, Norfolk, VA. A deeply moving 85-minute journey following The Pilot, played by the nuanced and brilliant Kate MacCluggage, thru air, land and matters of her human existence. Under the direction of Laley Lippard, MacCluggage navigates this hefty role with precision and heart. The Pilot's story extends over years and its presentation requires the bending of time and space. Without clear delineation and seamless shifts in topic the audience could be hard pressed to follow but that doesn't happen here. Lippard makes sure of that.
The Pilot never leaves her rectangle of light and we don't need or want her to. The rectangle is her physical limit, the rest of the stage is her limitless head space.The lighting design by Jason Amato and scenic design by Terry S. Flint both entrap and allow her to freely dream. We are in the confines of life and choices made by her and others. This is not a 'one woman play' -don't be fooled. This is masterfully produced storytelling. This is not one person portraying a cavalcade of characters that seriously makes you long for other actors to appear. You don't need anyone else. She is beyond and will not leave you wanting. Her story unfolds with a wonderfully jarring soundscape provided by Daniel Perelstein that brings you deeper into her head space and psychological dilemma. The abstract projections of dials, roadways, and measurement displays by Sarah Tundermann make us struggle to interpret but the impression they leave is plenty. At one point The Pilot cradles her white helmet in her lap and clutches it close to her stomach. We spot a flicker of light projected in the white and it is fantastic. It is her job, her unborn child, her future, her life, all in one brief flicker. This is an uneasy story and many could dwell on the seemingly bold of choice to bring this play to the military ensconced Hampton Roads area, a credit given to VSC's Interim Artistic Director Patrick Mullins and team, but this play is a story of being human in a dehumanizing situation. In its own rich simplicity it reaches far beyond the demands of being a drone pilot. Go see it.


Runs thru March 20th. www.vastage.org for tickets. $19-$45

Virginia Stage Company, a not-for-profit, professional resident theater company, enriches, educates and entertains the region by creating and producing theatrical art of the highest quality and worthy of national prominence.

BWW Review: GROUNDED Soars at Virginia Stage Company
Kate MacCluggage as The Pilot, VSC's Grounded runs thru March 20 - photo courtesy Samuel Flint

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From This Author Emel Ertugrul

Emel Ertugrul is the Producing Artistic Director of Core Theatre Ensemble, an independent innovative theater company based out of Hampton Roads, Virginia. An alumni of (read more...)

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