Have you ever wanted to see a girl's version of Top Gun? If so, I Feel the Need by Loree Draude tells the story of one of the first women to fly combat jets in the military.
Loree Draude (also called "Rowdy") started out wanting to pursue theatre. Her military family dissuaded her and guided her into a career in the service. She trained to fly for the Navy before women could participate in combat flights. She was planning for a career as a flight instructor or support crew. Shortly after gaining the required experience, the rules changed and she became one of few female fighter pilots. Draude recounts funny and captivating stories of her time before and during deployment.
Draude's charisma throughout the performance infected the audience and endeared them to her. She gave a captivating performance that suggested years of experience and total comfort in the spotlight. However, Draude is a novice, making her work all the more impressive. She is a compelling and natural storyteller.
The script contained many references to the movie Top Gun, even in the piece's title. Draude relates to the movie's content throughout the story, pointing out what wasn't depicted accurately. While it is smart to name the obvious and similar aviator story, I found the references were mentioned too often. The play was trying to depart from Top Gun's tone and story. Still, it struggled to do so because it often brought up the movie into the conversation. The piece could have stood stronger on its own with a bit less comparison.
In addition, the script lacked a conclusion and resolution. The main story drops off when Draude's deployment ends. The play then jumps several decades to our current time. This huge leap is taken without any real mention of what Draude did after deployment or the life she has created for herself now. The denouement felt roughly strung together, creating more loose ends rather than tying up the present ones.
Towards the end of the show, Draude harkens back to her original love for and interest in theatre. I found it very clever and touching how this childhood dream was now being actualized through this show. She also says she wants to use the show to honor the people she knew who lost their lives during her deployment. This message and theme could have been strengthened and used to form a stronger conclusion and through-line for the piece.
Overall, this show is very funny and heartfelt. The impressive writing and performance from a newcomer to the art form, entering the space with a story and clear point of view to share, make it a worthwhile piece of theatre to experience.
"I Feel the Need"
Written and Performed by Loree Draude
Directed by Beth Bornstein-Dunnington
October 13 and November 4, 2023
The 15th United Solo Festival
September 25- November 19, 2023
410 West 42nd (btw 9th and 10th Avenue)
Carmen! is a trans-multimedia artist specializing in playwriting, acting and crochet. Originally from Jacksonville Beach, Florida, they are currently based in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, returning to their Atlantic Oceanic roots. Their play Taking the Plunge has been performed at the Tank and the Chain off-Broadway and in the 2023 Fresh Fruit Festival slated this June. Carmen has also worked in front-of-house and technical positions for prominent theater organizations including New Dramatists, Portland Playhouse, Emursive and Future Proof. Carmen’s mission is to use play to create meaningful representation by and for underrepresented communities. For more information on Carmen! Follow them on socials @carmenacetosociety or check out www.carmenburbridge.info