The Broadway season ended last week, and today’s Wall Street Journal drama column, in which I review the off-Broadway premiere of Grounded, reflects that fact. Here’s an excerpt.
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No director makes more magical stage pictures than Julie Taymor. If only she were better at using them to illustrate what her actors are saying! Her fantastically complicated 2013 production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” for example, was a mountain of buttery frosting beneath which the sweet cake of Shakespeare’s verse all but vanished. Ms. Taymor’s staging of George Brant’s “Grounded,” by contrast, is both more modest and more effective, an eerily timely monologue about drone warfare that no amount of misguided directorial excess—and there’s plenty of it here—can sabotage.
Anne Hathaway plays a fighter pilot who becomes pregnant and is reassigned from Iraq to a Las Vegas base, where she joins the “Chair Force” as a drone operator. She carries out “personality strikes” on “military-age males” halfway round the world, then drives home to her doting husband and baby daughter each night after work….
“Grounded” is a taut piece of storytelling that shines a bright light on the little-understood emotional stresses that gnaw at the psyches of the practitioners of electronic warfare who only see the people they kill on a TV screen. And while Ms. Hathaway is now a movie star, she still knows her way around a stage: Her performance is tough and smart…
But “Grounded,” as usual with Ms. Taymor, is smothered in a thick sauce of over-elaborate, over-literal visual and sound effects. It’s as though “American Sniper” had been staged in the hyperactive video-game style of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.” While the parade of stage trickery is always ingenious and often memorable, it deprives the audience of the chance to use its collective imagination to bring the play to life….
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Read the whole thing here.
Anne Hathaway and Julie Taymor talk about Grounded: