Grounded, a play about our current world dynamics probably won’t sell out the house at Tacoma Arts Live and that is a shame. There’s no huge cast, no singing and dancing; it’s for adults, containing no jokes to share with friends later, but instead gives us some ideas to ponder.
Local actress Samantha Chung commands the stage as Richard Burton did sixty years ago or as Denzel Washington would today. Her command of the audience of this one-woman show was complete . . . from the heights to the depths.
Chung illustrates the chilling effects of death by remote control. When we first see her stride down the ramp with the backlit sky behind her, we experience her power and joy of being an F-16 fighter pilot. We share her excitement as she rules “the blue” as well as drinking with her buddies at bars back on Earth along with her sexual pleasure and command.
The stage at Theatre on The Square is barely large enough to contain the power of Chung as she dominates the audience even though the actual stage is large enough to contain dozens of actors at other times. Her pilot strides back and forth as well as up and down the ramp at the center of our attention. Bottles of water placed at several set locations give us a feeling of watering holes . . . each is an oasis amid the desserts of Iraq, Nevada, and her mind.
The tenderness of the pilot’s marriage, pregnancy, and daughter soon alter the jubilation and triumph of her command of the skies changes her perspective. Compare that to a reassignment to 12 hours a day in a chair and a computer screen showing only grey images replacing her cockpit and joystick. Imagine coming home after twelve hours of viewing a gray screen for targets half-way around the world and adding daily death to cooking, making love, TV, and playing with your child. Do they blend?
The play, written by George Brant possesses the question: As we make killing easier and less personal but retain the euphoria and triumph of death, how does this affect our ethics and our psyches?
The uncomplicated set design is perfect as it triggers in the minds of the audience to see what wasn’t there. From the opening backdrop, that you come to realize is the view through a drone’s camera of an area that shows the power of the bomb’s active explosion, to the blue sky as the pilot exults in the power of the blue sky and that she wields is staggering. A simple magical ramp is just afew steps away from the audience’s seats, the background sets the inner and outer limits of her mind. The set design by Lex Marcos is another character in the powerful production.
Lex was born and raised in Manila where he studied Painting and Art History at the University of the Philippines. He began by experiencing Kabuki and Noh from a Japanese Sensei. Working in visual Arts, Music, and Performance inspired him to pursue Scenic Design. After years of exposure in Manila, he joined a MFA program in Scenic Design by invitation from the University of Washington School of Drama, Design. He got his degree in 2017, He started designing productions in Seattle and across the U.S.
Brett Carr as Director and Eric Clausell as Associate Director did an excellent job working with Samantha Chung. Kim Izenman has been painting sets for theatres in the Tacoma/Seattle area since 1995. She and husband Brett Carr met at Tacoma Little Theatre and have been working on productions together ever since. Eric is directing A Chorus Line opening soon at Tacoma Little Theatre, where he directed just before COVID shut all our local theatres down two years ago. We love seeing theatre connections throughout the Puget Sound area.
“Grounded” runs through March 6; for more information go to – tacomaartslive.org/events/calendar/eventdetail/1843/-/grounded