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Anne Hathaway is great in 'Grounded'

Anne Hathaway appears in

Anne Hathaway appears in "Grounded," written by George Brant and directed by Julie Taymor, running at The Public Theater. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

On rare occasions, a piece of theater can become even more relevant than its creators expected it to be due to recent events in the world -- to the point of being downright eerie.

For example, just a few days after the president's announcement that two civilian hostages were accidentally killed in a drone strike targeting terrorists, George Brant's engrossing one-woman drama about a military drone pilot engaged in anti-terrorist operations -- starring Anne Hathaway and directed by Julie Taymor -- has opened at the Public Theater.

At the start, Hathaway, wearing an Air Force uniform, is like a female version of Tom Cruise's Maverick in "Top Gun" -- a cocky fighter pilot who loves her job, being one of the guys and the sensation of being up in the sky. But soon enough, she meets a nice guy in a bar and finds herself pregnant. After her daughter is born, she is reassigned to operating a remote-controlled drone aircraft from a military base outside Las Vegas.

Although she initially chides "Chair Force" work as beneath her, these long shifts of sitting in a chair, operating a joystick, and obsessively watching images of moving targets take hold of her mentally and emotionally. When she finally receives clearance to strike a suspected terrorist, a young civilian unexpectedly gets in the way.

Rather than debate the success or legality of drone warfare, "Grounded" is intended to dramatically and psychologically explore an individual engaged in it -- and it is undoubtedly successful at that.

Hathaway delivers a highly committed and aggressive performance throughout. Taymor, whose visual effects-loaded productions have included "The Lion King" and "Spider-Man," creates a thrilling stream of video images around a bare stage, bringing the audience even deeper into the character journey.

If you go: "Grounded" plays at the Public Theater through May 24, 425 Lafayette St., publictheater.org

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