Tuesday January 23rd 2018

“United Flight 232” revisited 2017

Below this mini-review  is the review I wrote in 2016-

Highly Recommended *****This is the new version, but is just as strong today as it was then. A few cast members have changed, but this amazing piece of theater, based on the true events of “United Flight 232” will bring you to the edge of your seat and probably bring a tear to your eye. The book by Laurence Gonzales takes us back to July 19th, 1989, when a flight that was bound for Chicago O’Hare , with 296 people on board ended up crash landing at Sioux City Gateway Airport. 184 of the passengers and crew members survived, and Gonzales  ( a resident of Evanston) based on personal interviews and research wrote his novel “Flight 232: A Story of Disaster and Survival”. This play ( A Joseph Jefferson Award Winner) was based on this book as adapted by director Vanessa Stalling.

Four of the original cast members have  returned and once again, the production is housed at The Chopin Theatre (Upstairs Stage). This is an 85 minute theatrical experience that is as vividly done this time as last and will certainly have an impact on anyone who is witness to the story. The cast is composed of:

Brenda Barrie , Alice De Cunha, Johnny Arena and Elana Elyce are  from the original production) and newcomers Abu Ansari, Joseph Sultani, Carlos Olmedo and Dan Lin and Jessica Dean Turner have been added . Once again, nine actors take on a myriad of roles-passengers and crew as well as employees at the airport to bring this miraculous story to life. The names and actors are different, but the play has the same intensity and this ensemble is just as strong as the original. The entire production is spellbinding and keeps us on the edge of our seats for the entire 85 minutes!

When we enter the theater from the lobby, we walk through what feels like a jetway to board a plane. House Theatre Company truly knows how to get into our heads!There is no reason to go into the same detail again as the story and the production values are as high as they can get. This should be on the MUST SEE list!

“United Flight 232” will continue thru October 21st with performances as follows:

Thursdays  8 p.m.

Fridays  8 p.m.

Saturdays  8 p.m.

Sundays  7 p.m.

Tickets run from $30-$50

$15 same day student tickets $15

To purchase tickets call 773-769-3832 or visit www.thehousetheatre.com

The Chopin is located at 1543 West Division Street ( between Ashland Avenue and Milwaukee Avenue)

Street parking is both metered and free and public transportation is readily available.

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “United Flight 232”.

When I saw the original, I was sorry that I had not taken Jane with. Thank you House Theatre for giving me the opportunity to share this amazing experience with her!

“United Flight 232”

UnitedFlight232_WebPosterHighly Recommended ***** The House Theatre of Chicago is one of our special companies. Started back in 2001 by a group of friends associated with the arts, the original idea was “to explore the connections between Community and Storytelling through a unique theatrical experience”. They have done just that, and then some! Their current production, now on the stage of their home at The Chopin Theatre, ” United Flight 232″, is an amazing 90 minute experience based on the critically acclaimed book by local author Laurence Gonzales. His book has been adapted and directed by Vanessa Stallings ,who has masterfully created one of the most educational and harrowing theatrical experiences you will ever witness.

This is the harrowing story of  an actual United Airlines flight that took place on July 19th of 1989. It was on its way from Denver to Philadelphia with a lay-over stop here in Chicago at Ohare. Thus it is fitting that the World Premiere of this story be told right here, and there is no other company as fitting to tell this tale than The House. As we enter the upstairs theater at Chopin, we have the feeling that we are entering our flight. The entry way has become a jetway (John Musial has designed the amazing set). The audience is placed on two sides facing a very open area where 9 chairs stand in a single file. When the play begins, we meet nine actors who during the next 90 minutes will become many of the passenger/survivors that were interviewed to create this epic tale. The lighting (William C. Kirkham) and projections(Paul Deziel) as well as the music (Steve Labedz) and props (Emily Breyer) are all sheer perfection in allowing the stellar cast recreate the real people who lived through this harrowing experience.232a

The program lists them as Actor 1 ( an amazing narration by Brenda Barrie who is our major flight attendant), Actor 2 ( Echaka Agba ) another flight attendant, Actor 3 ( Alice Da Cunha), yet another and various other characters and Actor 4 (deftly handled by Elana Elyce who plays almost all of the other females that survived this flight. Actor 5 is Rudy Galvan and Actor 6, James Dohery who brings us to tears with his story of thinking he was unstoppable in life. Actor 8, Kroydell Galima, handles many roles, one of which is the mechanic who kept the plane on course despite having lost an engine. Michael E. Martin, Actor 9 , plays many roles including that of the air controller in Iowa who worked with the flight team to save as many passengers as possible, and the final actor, Actor 7 , is Johnny Arena, who plays a little boy who befriends an older man, a businessman who saves a baby  and part of the flight team.

These nine actors bring all the emotion that one might expect in telling a story like this. How can people know what to do when they start to feel the threat of loss of life? What races through their minds? Did I say “I Love you” to my wife and kids as I left this morning? Will I ever see my loved ones again? Knowing what was about to happen gave these people cause to think about changes in their lives, and these 9 actors under the perfect direction of Stalling tell us the tale with all of the deep emotion that I am sure Gonzales found during his research. This is an amazing 90 minutes of theater where we watch each actor go through the struggles of every story they tell and each character they portray.232f

There are many lessons to learn from “United Flight 232”. Strangers helping each other when it appears that all hope is lost! Knowing that we can reach out and help our neighbor and that people will do the same for us. Learning to make sure that we tell the people we love, just that. This is a daring story to bring to the theater, but one that despite the tragic event will give you a feeling of warmth and hopefulness. Bravo, House. To learn more about the book that this play is based on, visit www.laurencegonzales.com/232.html.

We even feel the emotion of the plane crashing and rolling over. Even though we do not see the passengers upside down hanging from their seats, we feel that we do. This is the power that these actors bring to the piece and I can see The House Theatre earning a Jeff Award ( maybe several) for this unique ensemble piece.

You can witness “United Flight 232” for yourself at The Chopin Theatre located at 1543 West Division Street (between Milwaukee Avenue and Ashland Avenue) through May 1st. The performance schedule is as follows:

232uThursdays  8 p.m.

Fridays  8 p.m.

Saturdays  8 p.m.

Sundays  7 p.m.

Tickets (open seating) are either $30 or $35 depending on day of week. They can be purchased by calling 773-769-3832 or online at www.thehousetheatre.com

There is parking in the area and you can get more info on the website.

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “United Flight 232”chopin2

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