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Rachel Moulton as a fighter pilot in FST's Grounded

Florida Studio Theatre’s Stage III series, revived this year, has always aimed at delivering intensity, and its third offering this season, playwright George Brant’s Grounded, certainly fulfills that promise.

It’s a one-woman show centered on a female fighter pilot (Rachel Moulton) who can come across as macho as any male in her position. She loves to fly, to enter into “the blue,” as she calls it, but her high-flying days come to an end when she gets pregnant. She loves the baby’s father, whom she eventually marries, and she loves their daughter as well, trying to find enough happiness in her life with them to fill the void left by being “grounded.”

It’s not enough, though, and when she’s called up to do another kind of flying—operating drones in the desert outside Las Vegas that are aimed at another desert across the world, taking out “males of military age” in the fight against terrorism—she attempts to settle into that new job. But sitting in a chair for 12 hours a day, peering into the “gray” of the screen projecting images of her targets and taking orders through a headset, is a joyless task at best, one that starts to affect her home life and perhaps even her mental health.

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Moulton's character at work flying drones 

It’s a challenging role, but Moulton, who’s appeared in shows at FST before (although none that fully prepared us for how strong she could be), is up to that challenge. Taking the stage with a confident stride in her flight suit, needing only chairs placed at different spots of the small Bowne’s Lab stage to convey where she is (and aided by that screen and Ryan Finzelber’s lighting, which ratchets up the tension), she’s fully in charge.

That’s true whether she’s voicing her pilot self or responding to it with words from her concerned husband, young daughter or commanding officer. Under Kate Alexander’s equally confident direction, Moulton owns the stage, delivering Brant’s often poetic language with understanding and passion.

It’s a compelling show, one that will linger in your memory but that remains onstage only through April 7. For tickets call 366-9000 or go to floridastudiotheatre.org.

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