“Grounded” at Seattle Public Theatre

On a somewhat stark set, a single actor (Mahria Zook), offers up a morality lesson that is hard to ignore. This is the story of a female fighter pilot, an Air Force aviator who has her perfect job. Soaring through the wide blue sky is the greatest joy of her life, and she’s superb at it.

She’s cocky, tough, and swears with the best of them. But her perfect life takes a tailspin when she meets and falls in love with a sweet civilian and winds up pregnant and grounded.

She loves her daughter dearly, just as she loves her husband. But she needs to fly, needs to soar among the clouds and in the blue. Sadly, when she returns to active service, she learns that she will no longer fly. Instead she’ll sit in a darkened room and pilot a drone.

She hates it! She’s a flyer not a desk jockey. Sure she does her new job with incredibly more skill than that of teenaged boys playing video games, but in a way it is a game she’s playing. She’s not killing people per se. She’s blowing up the targets on her screen. Even when she learns to identify the body parts blown asunder by her explosives, hers is warfare without blood and guts.

It’s computer images she’s blowing up. Playwright, George Brant, forces the audience to contrast her adoration of her own little family to her callousness about the families she’s destroying. And he demands that his audience think about the impact of electronic advances on modern warfare. No question there’s a powerful message in this drama.

The play, however, could have used a little judicious cutting. The audience gets it, gets it early.
It’s a case where less would have been more.

Production values on this stage are amazingly good and extraordinarily inventive. They work powerfully to enhance the play’s impact. Lighting (Thorn Michaels), set design (Julia Hayes Welch), sound design (Robertson Witmer), and projections (Ahren Buhmann) work together to create a reality one wouldn’t think possible to achieve.

Through April 16, at Seattle Public Theater, 7312 West Green Lake Drive N., Seattle (206 524-1300 or www.settlepublictheatre.org).

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