Theater archives

Grounded Throws a New Stone at America’s War on Terror


The first thing to get used to when flying a drone over enemy territory is to see things as the drone does: at a 90-degree angle above the Earth in a dull, gray 3D. It’s the same upside-down approach that George Brant applies to the debate on drone warfare in Grounded, a Smith Prize–winner for political theater that throws a new stone at America’s “sanitized” killing of suspected terrorists in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The tightly crafted monologue, delivered by a former Top Gun officer now dropping bombs from a trailer in the Mojave Desert, makes a strong argument against the use of drones, but not because of the unfairness of the fight or the innocents in harm’s way. Brant’s concerns lie with the other victims of these “god-like eyes in the sky” of the U.S. military: its own active-duty soldiers who hunt and kill human targets on their computer monitors, then go home to family life in the ‘burbs. Can anyone spell post-traumatic stress disorder?

Hannah Cabell gives a muscularly luminescent performance as the tough-as-nails, cute-as-a-button Pilot, whose naïve attempt to balance motherhood and warfare is sent, predictably, into a tailspin. Ken Rus Schmoll’s direction and Arnulfo Maldonado’s set permit no distractions from her white-knuckle slip off the edge of her chair and into the crosshairs of the war on terror.