REVIEW: Grounded

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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is one of our military’s biggest challenges.  We send youngsters into battle, asking them to kill, maim, and destroy and no matter how prepared you may be, we’re not designed to be killers.  It does something to a man.

Or woman as we find out in Ensemble’s groundbreaking new play, GROUNDED, by George Brant.

Kathleen Wise stars as “The Pilot,” an air force fighter-jet flier who tells the story of her “grounding” and subsequent battle with psychosis and mental health problems.  Wise, a Cincinnati native, recently debuted at the Playhouse in the Park in the role of the Ghost of Christmas Past.  Here she has no ensemble to rely on, no Scrooge to play off of.  Instead, she must relay this solo story all by her lonesome.

It’s a bold performance and once Wise found her footing on opening night she was mesmerizing.  Under the veteran direction of Michael Evan Haney, she finds the right tone, the pace, and the voice of this lonely woman.  Brant’s words are poetic, but not too abstract.  They are, however, powerfully symbolic.  I especially appreciate the way he parallels The Pilot’s job duties with that of a Las Vegas blackjack dealer.

There are a lot of layers to this show and while there is some humor this is far from a comedy.  (See NATIVE GARDENS at the Playhouse if you want that.)  But this show, like many produced under the ETC banner, is as important as any you’ll see this season.

GROUNDED shines a light on the very real problem of PTSD and veterans the way only Ensemble Theater and artistic director D. Lynn Myers can: with dignity, poise, and remarkable imagery from set and lighting designer Brian C. Mehring (and a soundscape that brings the whole show together from Matt Callahan).

This isn’t the best play I’ve seen at ETC; it’s probably about fifteen minutes too long.  But it may be the most important one they’ll done all year.  And that’s saying something.

GROUNDED plays through February 14th at Ensemble Theatre in Over the Rhine.  Tickets and more information can be found here.

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