Actress Alicia Hunt is slender and athletic. She likes kickboxing and stage combat, and she brings that kind of explosive intensity to “Grounded” – a solo show in which Hunt prowls the stage for 90 minutes straight, pacing in circles, standing on a chair with arms extended, writhing on the floor. She runs the gamut, by herself. It’s quite a display.
Hunt, who grew up in Davis, plays a gutsy Air Force pilot who enjoyed her role a few years flying a fighter during the Iraq War.
[listen to the excerpt] "I’m in the blue for a reason. I’ve got missles to launch. I’ve got sidewinders, I’ve got mavericks. I rain them down on the minarets and the concrete below. The structures that break up the sand, I break them back down. I return them to deserts, to particles, to sand."
Later, she gets married, and has a child. She is less than thrilled when she returns to duty, and she is asked to take a desk job, operating a drone.
[listen to the excerpt] "I say ‘You want me in the Chair Force? I’m a real pilot. I’m a fighter pilot. You don’t spend a million dollars so I can fly a remote control plane. You need fighter pilots. You always need fighter pilots.’"
She reluctantly agrees. At first, she hates staring at a small screen.
[listen to the excerpt] "It’s not like a video game. A video game has color. I just stare at grey. Like a world carved out of putty. Like someone took the time to carve a putty world for me to stare at 12 hours a day.”
I’ve cut the expletives – she swears like a sailor. But her attitude gradually changes she’s told to track and ultimately kill a high value target in the Middle East. She finds she enjoys being an eye in the sky, a bird of prey.
But increasingly, she becomes disoriented, transitioning between domestic life with a toddler and a husband, and her long shifts flying the drone, blowing things up. She feels increasingly withdrawn. You can sense where the story is headed.
The play doesn’t really take sides, though it raises ethical questions about fighting a war by pushing buttons on another continent. Mostly, you come away impressed by Hunt’s intense performance as this troubled woman, struggling to be a wife and mommy, and a drone operator killing targets, all in the same day.
The B Street Theatre production of “Grounded” continues through August 8.