Photos by andrew alexander photography
She may be grounded but chastised? No way. Her swagger’s so intact she sneers that it’s a waddle.
Newly returned from furlough in Wyoming where she and the boys had hit the bar for beers and now back at her job in The Blue dropping bombs over Iraq and Afghanistan, the bad-ass fighter pilot cusses that it’s not the cheeseburgers widening her. Weeks after that roll in the sack with Eric (understating her use of the ‘f’ bomb), the guy who sashayed up to her at the bar because he found the flight suit on her sexy, she hurls on the tarmac. She does a test. It’s pink. Pink! (She’s not exactly a pink, hair-thrower kind of girl.) Skyping Eric, who minds the family hardware store in Wyoming, she hides her burgeoning belly behind the desk. He doesn’t know. She tells him. Then tears. He cries.
“Grounded,” she bemoans, “a pilot’s nightmare.” Maybe so. But Grounded, at The Gladstone Theatre until January 27th , is an audience’s dream.
You can forgive it for being a story about America’s military killing might for Scott’s enthralling enactment alone.
She accepts. They’re three. Love sneaks in. Sam – Samantha, her baby girl – keeps her from The Blue for a while. The Pilot was born for that, The Blue. But also for this: Motherhood. Love Sam as she does, she badly wants The Blue back.
Instead, she gets grounded to the desert of Nevada. The Chair Force.
“No one ever comes back from the Chair Force,” protests The Pilot, “it’s the Bermuda Triangle!” Doomed to direct drones from The Grey in a trailer a continent away from her targets, Eric says it’s a gift. “Drones are a gift?!” she gasps.
But she gets it. She’ll get to see her daughter grow up. She’ll get to kiss her husband each night.
The Pilot, stripes earned and role owned by Alexis M. Scott commanding a demanding part, flies solo. Set and costuming are sparse; any more would only distract from the mesmeric performance. Wearing only black boots and a khaki flight suit, Scott talks the talk and struts the swagger like nobody’s business. She pulls off power and ego like only the confidently competent can. Must come from being a graduate of the Ottawa Theatre School and a 2015 Prix Rideau Award nominee for her work as an emerging artist.
Scott white-knuckles the audience into a G-force ride that drains us with her descent.
But it’s when the cracks appear and The Pilot nosedives into free-fall that Scott proves that she’s a major talent, the latest firepower, “The Top Shit” in the vernacular of her flight instructor.
Scott white-knuckles the audience into a G-force ride that drains us with her descent. Her timing is impeccable, her delivery throughout the intense 75-minute, intermissionless show a marvel to witness as it devolves from full sentences containing first-person pronouns to a pronounless staccato when The Pilot loses her grip on the stick.
You can forgive it for being a story about America’s military killing might for Scott’s enthralling enactment alone. Bear & Co. produces this one-woman show by George Brant, a 2015 Off-Broadway hit that starred Anne Hathaway as The Pilot. Director Eleanor Crowder deftly manages to deliver peak power from her artists and Scott is no exception. Sound design by Daniel Claxton and cello effects by Raphael Weinroth-Browne fuse AC/DC into effective ‘decompression’ pieces.
Did anything not reach the sky in the preview performance of Grounded caught by this reviewer? A bluer ‘Blue” would’ve put us more in her headspace. And as that headspace clouded over, I saw our pilot as more the type to take the edge off by sucking back a Corona than sipping from a water bottle.
Grounded’s run at The Gladstone is limited, its impact anything but. Book a seat now.
CAST AND CREATIVE TEAM Director: Eleanor Crowder Alexis M. Scott: The Pilot; Sound design: Daniel Claxton; Cello effects: Raphael Weinroth-Browne
PERFORMANCE DETAILS January 18-27 (preview January 17) Tuesday–Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets: at The Gladstone