Grounded By George Brant
Directed by Monica Long Tamborello
Featuring Cynthia Beckert
Mad Cow Theater
Orlando, FL

Jet jockeying just isn’t like “Top Gun” anymore. Our unnamed flyer (Beckert) used to drive F-16’s around the sky, but that air frame is almost as old as I and our new war fighters might as well be playing a video game. She meets a nice guy on leave and has an “Oops” moment, and now her career stalls with the addition of a daughter, a husband and a new job in the modern fighting Chair Force. She’s still flying something but its more like that famous Penn and Teller video game “Desert Bus”: hours of ennui punctuated by brutal greyed out violence. And when the body parts fly, it’s not a game – it’s some other mother’s son dead in the burning dessert sand. Patriotism is one thing and earning a living is another, and they don’t mix all that well in her life. Her husband deals blackjack and while he wipes out people’s life savings, its not the same as her wiping out someone’s life. When put to the real test, she fails all because she’s too good at mapping herself into that tiny remote monitor and the soon to be dead enemy of our state. War is, in fact, hell. And here it’s a hell you can drive home from after a shift, then commute back to again tomorrow.

Enthusiasm and patriotism are the entry points to war, and disillusion and tortured dreams the end. Author Brandt accurately captures the surrealism of the modern battle front. Becket feels right as a pilot: the swagger, the casual profanity, and the confidence all came forth in her performance. She admitted after the show her family “had some aviation about it” and she did nail all the jargon. While your chances of death in the Chair Force is about what any office job risks, the ability to separate the focus of the battle field and the joys of home is compromised and that’s where the character finds her downfall.. There no set to bother this story, just some miscolored VASI lights and two panels of Midwestern fluffy cumulonimbus. Beckert takes our attention, and keeps us on her glideslope of total emotional destruction.

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