Saturday, August 15, 2015

"Grounded" also at Ubuntu Theater

Review by Wanda Sabir

Don’t miss “Grounded” by George Brant, directed by Emilie Whelan. Heather Ramey’s performance at the Oakland Aviation Museum, is awesome! We are in a hanger with airplanes surrounding us, one overhead. It is really really cool.  Intimate, there is a tiny stage and a table and chair, which provides the space for the narrative to unfold – there is desert in Nevada and Desert Storm in Iraq.  The parallels pile up unevenly and fall in a heap. We meet the pilot as she crawls from below—

The highly decorated, snazzy Major is good at what she does, fly. She is so good, the men see her as one of the boys. Most men she tells us are intimidated by her wings and her love of the Blue, but then she meets her match and goes flying and dropping bombs to sitting in a chair and navigating a drone.  

In both cases, she is fighting for her country.

Flying by the seat of her pants, means she is not in physical danger, and can go home every night to her family, but who gives the United States the right to play God?

It is a riveting work which looks at post-traumatic stress syndrome. The pilot’s melt down is subtle, but recognizable. It happens quickly or so it seems.  The fact that her commanding officer notices the signs and lets her crash speaks to the stigma mental illness carries, even today.

The director, Emilie Whelan says of Grounded, “The play is an act of confession, an act of brave confession in which [the pilot] must take stock in the actions that have led to this moment. Memory, the past, is a funny and fickle thing that too easily slips away if it is not recalled intentionally. Grounded recalls a contemporary isolation that is hard to bear.”

Harmful events which are beyond what is reasonable to expect, cause trauma. These experiences are not stored in places memories are normally stored. Our minds take information and creates connections between the new material and what is already stored. With trauma, which is an experience outside the norm, there is nothing to compare it to, so it is sublimated. Sublimated, it is hard to retrieve. These memories can show up in reenactments or dreams or not at all. Yet, even when unrecognized or irretrievable, these experiences can affect our behavior. We see this in Grounded, as the pilot’s 12 hours watching a grey screen in a dark trailer bleeds into her reality and the two become inseparable.

Haunted.  Ghosts stock her, and because the job is classified, she cannot share her burden with her husband who loves her or even the therapist he talks her into visiting. “Grounded” is certainly a play that should have all of us picking up our phones to demand that soldiers have mental health support before they have a crisis, and that officers take their soldiers’ mental health seriously. I guess we should really think about a war where people are killed by a mouse click on a screen. There is something unethical and cowardly about a fight where machines shoot people from the sky. America can see the prey, but the predator is hidden. There is no honor in such a fight.  Again site specific, George Brant’s play, “Grounded,” at the Oakland Aviation Museum, 8252 Earhart Road, Oakland, closes August 15, 8 p.m. For all the details visit 


Post a Comment

<< Home