Women have had a tough time maneuvering the workplace for as long as I can remember, and it continues today despite the women’s movement that we as Baby Boomers were witness to. But for women in the military, it’s been especially tough and that’s what’s portrayed in Lila Rose Kaplan’s play, 100 Planes.
The production is currently running at the Broadwater Black Box Theatre in Hollywood. A young Air Force pilot, Lieutenant Kay McClure (played by Alani Rose Chock) meets a former classmate and local weatherman David (Brennan Patrick) at a high school reunion in Iowa. She learns that he had a silent “thing” for her back then that she wasn’t aware of. Up until this point, she’s been focused on her career and has dreams to fly the Air Force’s newest hybrid jet. The couple agrees to write to each other while she is in Germany for training.
Her analytical personality makes it difficult for her to connect in the relationship sphere. David writes her heartfelt letters, but she can only respond by sending him lists. She feels most comfortable with that type of structure and it’s what attracted her to the military. Despite her seeming frigidity, they manage to form a relationship. When David doesn’t hear from her in a while, he flies to Germany under the guise of interviewing her superior to check up on her.
Kay pleads with her Major, an older woman named Anne, (played by Karen Harrison), to let her fly the jet. Anne is a hardass, which is often a necessity for women to survive in the military but is a respected trainer. Kay makes the mistake of calling Anne “Ma’am,” and throughout the play calls her “Sir.” After some prodding, Anne realizes that Kay is a talented pilot and gives her the chance to impress the Colonel.
Anne has been carrying on a lesbian relationship with Monique (Brittany Flurry) who is the secretary to the Colonel and is also a pianist in the Officer’s Lounge. The play takes place in 1997 during “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” so they have to keep their relationship a secret.
Anne has had her share of discrimination to deal with during her long military career. She is now middle-aged and has been passed up for promotions time and time again. In frustration, she has gained the reputation of treating the women in her charge with cruelty.
Anne’s long-term relationship with Monique takes a turn when the two of them schedule a meeting with an adoption agency and Anne fails to turn up. Anne tells Monique that she was busy training Kay and simply forgot. Monique tells her she’s had it and threatens to leave.
Both Kay and Anne struggle with the force of ambition over nurturing their relationships and the fear and uncertainty that goes with it.
The West Coast premiere of 100 Planes is 80 minutes long without an intermission and runs through August 4th. It’s one of Kaplan’s earlier plays (written 10 years ago) that was put in a drawer until it premiered by the same company in Austin earlier this year.
It’s a story that needs to be told as women are still enduring discrimination in the military. Overall the cast was adept except for occasional mumbling and slightly slow pacing. Karen Harrison stood out in a nuanced performance as the stoic but also conflicted Major. The production was ably directed by Elizabeth V. Newman.
The ordeals that women encounter in the military have been silenced for too long. I was happy to see this production addressing it.
For tickets, and more information about 100 Planes click here.