Grounded: Theater review by Adam Feldman
George Brant’s Grounded, a solo play about a U.S. Air Force pilot who is yanked from the skies and consigned to steering drones, had blunt force in its brief run at Walkerspace last year, directed starkly by Ken Rus Schmoll and performed by Hannah Cabell. Now, surprisingly, it has returned in an entirely new production at the Public, directed by Julie Taymor and starring Anne Hathaway. One can see why Hathaway was drawn to the challenge of playing a tough military woman in Brant’s timely piece, which asks audiences to wrestle with questions of surveillance and dehumanization. But although she works hard and acquits herself fine, she’s not a natural fit for the role. Her movie-star beauty looks out of place in a flight suit; there are too many traces of effort in her Southern accent and flygirl swagger. Even the thoughtfulness that flickers through her performance works against the grain of the pilot’s profound denial. And Taymor’s busy, illustrative direction—which surrounds the actress with showy projections and sound effects—adds to the trouble; her staging of the play’s new ending hovers at the edge of kitsch. It’s good to see Hathaway spreading her wings, but the end result doesn’t take flight.—Adam Feldman
Public Theater (Off Broadway). By George Brant. Directed by Julie Taymor. With Anne Hathaway. Running time: 1hr 15mins. No intermission.
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