"They Promised Her the Moon" at the Old Globe Theatre. . Photo by Jim Cox
Thanks to Laurel Ollstein’s They Promised Her The Moon, the name Jerrie Cobb has been rescued from obscurity, at least at the Old Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre. Cobb could and probably should have been the first woman in space (that distinction belongs to Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova). But politics and sexism kept Cobb and 12 other women, dubbed the Mercury 13, from becoming American astronauts in the heroic era of John Glenn, Scott Carpenter and Alan Shepard.
Giovanna Sardelli directs the West Coast premiere of They Promised Her The Moon, essentially a biopic-on-stage that follows Cobb (Morgan Hallett) from fearless pre-teen aviator through a record-breaking career in flying (with scenes ingeniously staged) and to the precipice of making history in the space race. The first act, interweaving Cobb’s upbringing by a doting father and a Bible-thumping mother with her adventures as a pilot and her grueling NASA tests, is engrossing and entertaining. Less so is the second act, specifically a heavy-handed showdown with overly loud congressmen. Yet this is a sincerely told story and a production buoyed by star turns from Hallett and Mary Beth Fisher as pioneering woman aviator Jackie Cochran.
(Review originally published in San Diego CityBeat on 4/17/19.)
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.