Highly 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.
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.
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:
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”