The House Theatre of Chicago presents the revival of United Flight 232, a docudrama adapted and directed by Vanessa Stalling from Lawrence Gonzales' book Flight 232: A Story of Disaster and Survival. The thrilling story follows selected passengers and crew from the doomed flight before, during, and after the plane's emergency landing - and the production is utterly engrossing from start to finish.
The talented ensemble is led by Brenda Barrie in a nuanced and emotional turn; seeing her (and the other actors portraying flight attendants) attempt to remain calm and poised as the situation grows darker is haunting. There is not a weak link in the cast, but actors Elana Elyce and Dan Lin, like Barrie, stood out for their especially engrossing and realistic performances.
The scenic design (by John Musial) is simple until its not, with absolutely breathtaking imagery taking the audience completely by surprise in the final act. The production is staged perfectly by Stalling; the choreography of bodies and the quick-changing of characters are always clear, effective, and precise.
Unlike many other docudramas, United Flight 232 runs a sharp 85 minutes without intermission. This allows for a truly transformative experience, in which the audience (who enters through a claustrophobic hallway reminiscent of a terminal walkway) is refused any break from the chaos. From only a few moments in, the dread is palpable.
United Flight 232 is adapted and performed with tremendous humanity, creating a truly moving portait of people in an impossible situation. This masterful revival from The House should not be missed - in fact, it truly deserves a long, extended run. This may be the best production in Chicago right now.
Review by Jason Berger
United Flight 232 continues at the Chopin Theatre through October 21st. More information here.
The Hawk Chicago is included in TheatreInChicago's Review Round-Up.