Last week I saw “Grounded” at Central Square Theater, which runs through this weekend. You should go! It’s a brilliant play, and the actress, Celeste Oliva, is a revelation.
I might not have even gone myself if I hadn’t had season tickets. The plot–an Air Force fighter pilot is grounded because of her pregnancy and is put to work piloting drone strikes–didn’t grab me. But the script, by George Brant, transcends the topic. As I said on Twitter, whatever you think the play is about, it’s more than that.
One of the major themes was how much of our lives is under surveillance and/or on screen. The pilot’s targets are on screen, of course, close enough that she can see their identifying characteristics. Her husband, a blackjack dealer, works under cameras to ensure he doesn’t steal. She refers to their evening television as “another hour of screen.”
One of the conversations I had and heard a lot at the Stage the Future conference–and over the past year in general life–is why science fiction and science in pop culture? What’s with the current rise of these genres?
Because they reflect what modern life is, I suspect. We live on the screen. Often alone but with no privacy. The news gets more surreal every day. The lines between nations and peoples and corporations blur. The line between media and reality blurs. We don’t understand the future we are preparing our children for. How can we not be telling stories of science and science fiction?
“Grounded” isn’t science-fictional, or even especially technical. It’s a straightforward, ripped-from-the-headlines drama. But it still digs into the difficulty of making sense of reality when so much of it is spent in cubicles, staring at screens. Of the difficulty of knowing who to empathize with: Are you more like the people who believe what you do, or the people who do what you do? Do you have more in common with your colleagues or your spouse? What do you owe your child compared to what you owe the world’s children? Who is your tribe and why?
And can you fool your brain into thinking what’s on the screen is real only when you want it to be? That it’s people when you want to feel connected with people, and pixels when you don’t?
This is what I noticed, because I’m me. I saw the play with a friend of mine who is a mother and a lawyer, and she heard other notes, notes that resonated with her perspective and experience. The script was that good.
Buy tickets here.