By Beki Pineda

Written by George Brant; directed by Josh Hartwell. Produced by Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company at the Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Jan. 8-18, 2015. Tickets available at www.betc.org.

The joy of watching Laura Norman bring a character to life is one of the reasons we enjoy theater. There is a serenity and calm in her demeanor that is immediately reassuring. As an audience member, you know that everything is under control; that truth is going to be told and you are going to see something special. GROUNDED is no exception. You have the pleasure of seeing Laura hold the stage on her own and tell an intriguing story.

We meet The Pilot at the top of her game, charging into the blue over the deserts of Iraq. She holds her own with the men in her life at all levels. She is at home in the sky; she is one of the guys. But when she comes down to earth, she is caught up in the ordinary pleasures … a cold beer, a nice man, a warm bed, a long weekend. As changes occur in her life, she is forced into trading the blue airspace over Iraq for a gray TV image generated by a drone flying into that same familiar territory. The far-reaching impact of this reversal is told in simple but emotional terms and vividly portrays the demands made on our military personnel. You are left asking, “Was she wrong? Someone made a mistake here. Whose mistake was it?”

The story and the performance are the moving forces in this production. A simple set adorned with digital décor keeps us connected without distraction. A flight suit is the only—but most powerful—costume.
A personal impact: In 2011, I watched the devastation of the Japanese tsunami live with fellow officemates as it was happening. It was shot from a helicopter over the rice fields several miles inland as the black sludge of the ocean swept over the countryside, burying everything in its path. We watched helplessly as a car went one way and then reversed, trying to escape the black death. In Denver we were yelling instructions to a panicked driver in Japan and watched with horror as the car was buried. I had the same desperate, helpless feeling listening to The Pilot’s story.

BETC has been providing insightful entertainment for Boulder audiences for years. In September it gave Denver theatergoers an opportunity to enjoy this production at the Avenue Theatre. Congrats to BETC for initiating that move, and for bringing the show to Boulder in response to popular demand. Check out the three remaining plays in BETC’s 9th season, and you will be beating a path to each new production.

WOW factor: 9