A pilot is the blue. A fighter pilot becomes the blue through sweat, brains, and guts. Grounded, an evocative one-woman show written by George Brant, has landed at Everyman Theatre this fall. An award-winning sold out sensation in London, this co-production with Olney Theatre Center takes flight for the Baltimore-Washington area premier and soars with flying colors as an exceptionally well-penned and phenomenally well-performed dramatic production. Directed by Derek Goldman, this intensely emotional, thought-provoking work blends the realities of personal and political agendas into a state of irrevocable gray; a striking force of pathos waiting to jar the audience with its reality.
Stepping into the theater the atmosphere is immediately palpable and present; this show will ground your sensations. Scenic Designer Luciana Stecconi panels the walls with projection screens, leaving the stage otherwise bare. Projection Designer Jared Mezzocchi fills in the gaps between the ground and the sky with vibrant yet often times distorted images. This serves a symbolic purpose two-fold as ‘The Pilot’ has a distorted perception of the reality in which she lives, both before and after her pregnancy. The striking starkness of Stecconi’s work enhances the intensity with which the play gains momentum; nothing to distract the audience from the serious focus of The Pilot’s mission.
Sound Designer Eric Shimelonis is a subtle hand, almost a secondary character in regards to the play’s momentum. Echoing the sentiments that The Pilot discusses, or providing reactive sound effects for moments of emotional tension. Shimelonis balances the volume so that although his moments of underscoring can be heard, they are always lingering just out of reach in the background; never overwhelming or overtaking the action upon the stage.
Playwright George Brant has penned a harrowing tale suffused with comedy in all the right places. At first the story seems simple enough; coping with life after being grounded from active flight duty. But Brant’s poignant writing style allows for sharp twists down a slippery slope executed so subtly that the arch of The Pilot’s story is spiraling out of control before it is ever realized. The visceral reality of politics and personal experience are captured at their epitome in his writing; her character and all of its shifts frozen for a moment in the 75 minutes of acting that plays out upon the stage.
Director Derek Goldman works with City Paper’s 2014 Best Actress and Everyman Resident Company Member Megan Anderson to make this show stunning. Under Goldman’s direction, Anderson unleashes a dynamic inferno which conjures unsettling mixed emotions among the audience from the play’s opening monologue through to the end. The performance maintains the attention of the audience every step of the way; gripping the viewers harder and harder until they are plunged headlong into the gray of the story itself; unable to escape.
Megan Anderson gives what could easily be the solo performance of her career. Captivating, engaging, compelling; from the moment she opens her mouth one can feel the sky resonating through her. Adapting the notions of the pilot into her character, the wide-open blue is flowing through her physicality, her vocalization, even her facial expressions are as wild and untamed as the open air above. Balancing the emotionally draining moments against those that are more lighthearted and comic, Anderson delivers genius in this role.
She commands a presence on the stage required for a solo show to be effective, all the more so given the play’s subject matter. The vulnerability present and her ability to express those raw unyielding dark emotions from within her character’s heart and soul is awe-inspiring. Never once does Anderson miss a beat, never once does her character break or fade away from its shining potential. She lives every moment of The Pilot’s life on stage for the duration of the performance and does so with magnificence. A striking emotional ending leaves the audience floored, and thundering their standing ovation for Anderson’s sensational work.
Do not miss this rare opportunity to see talent at its finest in this one-woman show featured this season. Grounded will fly away before you know it, and the gray will be all that remains.
Running Time: Approximately 75 minutes with no intermission