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BWW Reviews: Brant's GROUNDED a Chilling Drama of Drone Warfare

The unnamed United States Air Force fighter pilot in George Brant's chilling solo drama, Grounded, loves her job.

Anne Hathaway (Photo: Joan Marcus)

She loves the respect, the danger, "the G-Force pressing you back as you tear the sky."

And she loves aiming explosives on the fortresses of "Saddam's dipshit army" and returning them to desert sand.

Most of all she loves being in "the blue."

So when she returns from maternity leave ready to fly again, only to discover she's been reassigned to a desk in a trailer outside of Las Vegas to pilot drone aircraft - part of the "chair force," as she disparagingly calls it - it takes a while for her to regain those same feelings of pride and thrill.

What she gains right away is safety and comfort; the ability to commute every day to a war taking place half a world away, serve her country by watching a video screen and targeting her weaponry on those deemed as "the guilty" and then drive back home to her baby and supportive husband.

But unlike her previous missions, she's now able to see the effects of her actions and the perfectly trained fighting machine's human emotions start uncontrollably surfacing.

Grounded has played in New York before, but the new Public Theater production boasts two very high-profile names: Anne Hathaway and Julie Taymor.

Anne Hathaway (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Her name synonymous with theatrical spectacle, Taymor makes an impressive shift to something more intimate and psychological. Set designer Riccardo Hernandez covers the floor with raked white sand and places a wall-sized tilted mirror upstage. Working with designers Peter Nigrini (projections), Christopher Akerlind (lights), Will Pickens (sound) and composer Elliot Goldenthal, Taymor creates striking images to represent the changing world of the pilot as her professional life and family life begin to blend in her mind.

Hathaway is excellent as the cocky protagonist, strutting with pride at her accomplishments and letting off steam with dive bar beers and satiating an aggressive sexual appetite. Motherhood and married life soften her only slightly but she convincingly transitions into someone feeling the effects of her godlike power to administer judgement and punishment growing fearful of the surveillance cameras that have become an accepted part of civilian life.

Brant's intriguing and engaging script doesn't argue policy, but is more fixed on the notion that modern technology is capable of turning soldiers into assassins, if only human conscience wouldn't stand in the way.

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