Grounded is a soft approach to a hard-hitting show

Riverside Theatre’s production of the George Brant play adds a human touch to the hard hitting story of a female fighter pilot turned mother and drone pilot.



Madeline Liegois, Arts Reporter

Riverside Theatre’s online production of Grounded by George Brant soared past my expectations of the play. Iowan actor Katy Hahn’s stunning performance as The Pilot is matched by Brant’s impressive script of this one-woman show.

Grounded follows The Pilot’s journey as she navigates motherhood while becoming a drone pilot after her career as a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force. While Brant does not give too many intricate details about The Pilot’s life, the plot still feels vibrant and filled with humanity as the lone on-stage persona tells her story.

The Pilot is a character that an audience can reflect onto. I related to The Pilot more than I thought I would. We both feel like we have to be on our “A game” all hours of the day, we both want to be there for the people we care about, and we both have the vocabulary of a well-educated sailor.

The character’s journey is fully embodied by Hahn’s performance. Hahn makes The Pilot, who on paper feels more militaristic than maternal, feel human and vulnerable even underneath her tough exterior. Hahn also manages to play this dramatic character without chewing the scenery in this show; I think she has just the right amount of intensity to make The Pilot’s story shine.

This local rendition brings a new energy to the story, and is definitely worth the watch.

Riverside Theatre’s production team has excelled with this incredibly minimalistic show. Lighting and Hahn’s staging plays a huge role in the storytelling of this show. Each lighting change and each move Hahn makes transports the story to a new place and time; I think it is done beautifully and keeps the audience in The Pilot’s headspace as she maneuvers through her life.

This show is not a musical, but there is plenty of music throughout the show. This allows for the show to not only move forward in time and the plot, but also apply light moments to its otherwise heavy overtones.

There is a point in the show when The Pilot receives a very thoughtful mixtape from her husband Eric that reminds both she and the audience of all the important things in her life — the sky, her daughter Samantha, and AC/DC. This is a refreshing moment where the viewer can simply sit and watch The Pilot breathe, pulling away from the world of surveillance cameras and drones.

While Grounded as a whole is a brilliant show, I do have a critique about the ending of the play. The audience is thrown into an epilogue scene that, upon first viewing, I did not realize was a denouement. I assumed the story continued right after the prior scene, and I felt confused about what was happening. The story ends feeling unfinished, as if The Pilot was not telling her full story all along.

The play encapsulates the essence of a modern woman in a high-demand world. This local rendition brings a new energy to the story, and is definitely worth the watch.

Grounded is available for streaming on Riverside Theatre’s website from Oct. 22 to Oct. 25.