A long time ago, I came across a reviewer’s comment: “This book is not about what the book seems to be about,” and this applies [to Grounded, which just ended a run at NC Stage].
A highly qualified, top-notch U.S. Air Force female fighter pilot finds herself pregnant, and, regulations say, this is enough to ground her. Very hard to accept, but she must, and after the pregnancy leave, she finds herself reassigned to pilot drones on real warfare missions in the Mideast, while operating out of a U.S. air base near Las Vegas.
I was attracted to this play because I am a pilot, and thought the flying part alone would hold my attention, but that is not even remotely what the play is about. Instead we are drawn slowly, but inexorably, into the very real ambiguities of war and the physical, moral and philosophical impact fighting in war has on us — even more so when operating safely far from the action and doing it almost on a career basis, where you can go home to husband and child at the end of the day.
The contrasts, ironies, and yes, contradictions, draw you into the theme’s implications and are heightened by the actress [Blythe Coons’] apparently simple, yet incredibly powerful delivery — done with the terse sentences you would expect from a pilot communicating, alone in the plane, with controllers on the ground dealing with multiple situations simultaneously.
The dilemma of war, all wars, and human violence, whether individually, or done by society as a whole, emerges as the central theme and reminds us how little progress we have made over the eons in not just preventing it, but in just understanding it.
— Hermann Gucinski