They Promised Her the Moon
“When they go low, we go high,” are words that could have easily been spoken by Jerrie Cobb (Amanda Quaid) in Laurel Ollstein’s new play They Promised her The Moon. The play tells the relatively unknown story of mid- Western Cobb, a girl with a speech defect and a critical mother, but a dream that proved stronger than her limitations.
Cobb’s dad was a pilot and after flying with him at age ten was hooked. With his encouragement, she became pro and broke records in speed, distance and absolute altitude. Still, with so much discrimination against women pilots, she struggled to find work. When famed pilot Jackie Cochran, (Andrus Nichols), considered top female aviator in the world, created the Mercury 13 program to train female astronauts, Cobb’s luck changed. She out tested everyone including her male colleagues in the Mercury 7 program, but was not permitted to go up because women were not considered The Right Stuff. John Glenn testified against women in the space program and so Russia got there first with a lesser qualified Valentina Tereshkova.
This story of strength and resilience is beautifully told in this insightful and humorous play. Cobb had to compete against men as well as her own gender; Cochran, at fifty-five was too old to go up and consciously worked against Cobb’s success. She is brittle and tough, but we understand what she had to fight against, too.
The performances are all top notch, some playing several characters. John Leonard Thompson as Cobb’s pilot father and Congressman is a quiet sensitive man and wholly believable as a father who can see a future in his daughter’s eyes. Edmund Lewis, Polly Mckie and John Russell are all terrific with a wide range.
Amanda Quaid, our pilot hero, who discovers romantic love but chucks it for the skies, is so good at bringing an awkward young woman into existence in front of our eyes. When her career takes the obvious fall it must from not being permitted to become an astronaut, she doesn’t give up…she just moves…to the Amazon where she works with tribes and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1981.
Ms. Ollstein, an original member of Actors’ Gang in LA, has a great ear for real talk and imbues the story with sensitivity and humor.
As directed by Producing and Artistic Director of the Miranda Company, Valentina Fratti brings this too little known story beautifully to life. Graham Kindred’s set and lighting design is simply perfect.
Hopefully, this wonderful show, having run its course at St. Clement’s will soon find a new home. It deserves it.