by Sheldon Gleisser
Saw Red Herring Theater's production of "Grounded" last night.
"Grounded" is a one-woman show touching on themes of family, career, and identity. Looming over all of that is the question of whether our technology will serve us or if it will be the other way around.
Carolyn Demanelis is mesmerizing in the role of the unnamed female fighter pilot first introduced to us speaking rapturously of flying her jet 'into the Blue.' Her plane is a machine she loves passionately even as she bombs targets back into the desert sands.
But an unplanned pregnancy grounds the Pilot and everything changes. She becomes part of the "Chair Force" in Las Vegas, piloting drones, a job she finds not Blue, but Gray. Her life becomes a series of boxes, from the one she sits in 12 hours a day, to the home she shares with a husband and daughter inevitably out of touch with what she does.
And what she does is kill, in an air conditioned room in Las Vegas thousands of miles away from her targets in the Middle East. "Imagine if, in 'The Odyssey,' Ulysees came home every night," she says. It seems only a matter of time before the war she's come home to comes home to her.
"Grounded" is riveting, excellent theater, directed by Nancy Shelton Williams in a spare, terse 80 minutes that takes every advantage of the play's (and Ms. Demanelis') ability to change scenes and moods with a word or phrase.
Shelton Williams' design of the set, first a forced perspective runway, then a bar, then the interior of an Air Force office, perfectly serves the play. Lighting Design, by Kurt Mueller, Projection design by Yi-Lin Eli Chung, Sound design by Dave Edwards, and Costume Design, by Brian A. Palmer, all form a seamless blend to tell "Grounded's" story.
I don't know how I'd have heard of this play, let alone seen it produced, without Red Herring Theater's ongoing mission to bring great, interesting theater to Columbus. That they've pulled off another one is not a surprise. Keep 'em coming, Michael Herring and company!
"Grounded" was listed as one of the top 10 plays of 2013 by both the London Evening Standard and The Guardian newspapers, and it's at The Franklinton Playhouse, 566 West Rich Street in Columbus Thursday-Saturday at 8:00 PM, and Sunday at 2:00 PM through April 7th. I say check it out!