Anne Hathaway Flies Solo in Julie Taymor's 'Grounded' at Public Theater

By K. Young on Apr 30, 2015 02:20 AM EDT

It's official: Anne Hathaway has gone and enlisted in the Air Force. OK, so not really. But Hathaway hath given us a tour de force performance as a "Maverick" Mitchell-esque fighter pilot who rains down hell on Iraq and Afghanistan in Julie Taymor's new solo play, Grounded, at Public Theater.

Directed by the Tony-winning Taymor (yes, we have forgiven her for the utter failure that was Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark), Grounded premiered at the Public on Sunday. As per the OGL's review: "In its comparative simplicity and economy, 'Grounded' could be seen as a departure of sorts for both artists. Ms. Hathaway is alone onstage for about 85 minutes, with scarcely a costume change, although Ms. Taymor has provided a sleek, high-tech production surrounding her."

The NYT also notes that while the material is not new by any means, George Brant's play draws a nuanced and haunting portrait of a woman serving in the United States Armed Forces--coming under pressure as the human cost of war, for combatants as well as civilians, slowly eats away at her well-armored psyche.

Likewise, New York mag's Vulture said that the combination of Oscar-winning movie star Anne Hathaway and buzz-magnet director Julie Taymor is sure to draw more attention to the timely subject than have any of the play's three dozen productions around the world since 2013 (including a well-reviewed, bare-bones stop in New York last year).

Classicalites, you can watch Hath & Tay chat about Brant's Grounded below:

The themes and plot discussed in the play subtly underscore the importance of the overall message--how to convey ideas and concepts to Americans that they may not want to hear. For instance, this cautionary tale about our increasing reliance on drone warfare may easily be ignored, as there is not much exterior drama to it. On the surface, it's an unnamed Air Force major who simply delivers an 80-minute monologue recounting her plight from fallen fighter pilot to operator of UAVs (i.e. unmanned aerial vehicles) after an unplanned pregnancy grounds her.

Transferred from the deserts of Iraq to Creech AFB in the Mojave--from one desert to another, ostensibly--she experiences a moral dilemma that eventually breaks her. While she gets to be with her husband and daughter after staring at screens all day, the act of killing becomes so remote as to almost deprive it of meaning. We are meant to understand that the obligatory trust we offer the military in order to protect us is just a more abstract version of the same trade-off.

And with Hathaway's gut-wrenching performance, we really do feel for her--as we begin to understand her plight of a woman who is really losing it.

As Oskar Eustis, the Public's artistic director, writes in his program note: "Grounded is interested in the psychological impact on the pilots who command drones, but what makes the play important and powerful is the way [Brandt's] pilot stands in for all of us."

Indeed, it really is a remarkable play that addresses the tough questions that must be asked of today's military. It's a must-see there in the Village, with Anne Hathaway at her best.

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TagsAnne Hathaway, Grounded, Julie Taymor, Tony Awards, George Brant, Public Theater

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