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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Closing Weekend for City Theatre’s Grounded

Posted By on Wed, Apr 30, 2014 at 9:00 AM

This is a sharply written piece, with Kelly McAndrews giving a fine solo performance as a U.S. Air Force pilot reassigned to "Chair Force” duty as a drone operator.

Kelly McAndrews in Grounded
  • Photo courtesy of Kristi Jan Hoover
  • Kelly McAndrews in "Grounded"

What’s most remarkable about the play’s treatment of a controversial (if too little debated) issue is playwright George Bryant’s refusal to lecture about the morality or immorality of America’s extralegal killings of suspected terrorists half a world a way. Bryant doesn’t have to: His moving and credible story indicts the practice as much as any speech might.

McAndrews’ unnamed Pilot doesn’t even start out with qualms about hunting victims in the Iraqi desert via the unmanned drones, which are operated by pilots like her, in air-conditioned trailers in the Nevada desert. Indeed, her main grievance is that she doesn’t actually get to fly the planes that are dropping the bombs anymore. (She loves flying fighter jets.)

But the one thing that seems good about drone-piloting — that she can go home to her husband and infant daughter nightly, like any other shift-worker — turns out to be one of the most disorienting things about it. “Can we just pretend I don’t come home every night?” she ends up pleading to her husband.

Then there’s the telescopic bird’s-eye view of the Pilot’s human targets that begins to give her delusions of divinity, but also sparks virtual personal relationships with the would-be victims. That military lingo designates such targetings “personality strikes” only adds to the bitter irony.

There are limits to Bryant’s approach, of course: Seeing the drone issue only through the Pilot’s eyes, there’s surely a lot we don’t perceive. But in his own provocative but rigorously crafted way, the playwright brings home the havoc on the ground drone warfare causes on both spots on the globe.

Here’s Ted Hoover’s review of the show for CP.

Grounded’s final performances are at 8 p.m. this Friday, 5:30 and 9 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday, in the intimate confines of City Theatre’s Hamburg Theatre.

Tickets are $15-55 and are available here.

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