Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Review of The House Theatre of Chicago's United Flight 232

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called United Flight 232. It was adapted and directed by Vanessa Stalling from the book Flight 232: A Story of Disaster and Survival by Laurence Gonzales. It was about a plane that was traveling from Denver to Chicago and crashed in Iowa in 1989. It is about the people on the plane and their experiences. It is about gratitude, reflection, and heroics. I think this is a really beautiful and moving show. It has such a powerful message and was gorgeous to watch.

This show has some very beautiful visual aspects. When you walk into the room you are already very immersed because the hallway that leads you to the theater looks almost exactly like a jetway, the walkway that leads you to a plane. The set (designed by John Musial) and the projections (by Paul Deziel) worked very well together because the set was like a white tent surrounding the audience. And you could see people's shadows when they would walk past and you could also see designed projections, like how the plane's systems work and how it looks when it falls apart. Even though they only had nine actors (Abu Ansari, Johnny Arena, Brenda Barrie, Alice De Cunha, Elana Elyce, Dan Lin, Carlos Olmedo, Joseph Sultani, and Jessica Dean Turner), you still felt for every single person on that plane. I think the projection of the seating chart made the ending even more moving because you remembered how many people were on that plane. I think the flashlights (lighting design by William C. Kirkham) they used were really really cool because the light coming out of them looked like plane windows and they would move across the white tent, and I thought that was mesmerizing. I liked how much the blocking looked like choreography; it was cool how each movement looked so fluid.

Each of the character's stories in this was very moving. There was a really moving story which was about a businessman (Olmedo) that was sitting next to a teenage girl and they were trying to plan how they were going to get out of the plane when it crashed. It was so moving to see people who had no connection and never had spoken before planning on how to save each other. There is so much compassion in the play for people from other people who don't even know each other. All they know is that they are a person who has a lot more life to live; they don't know if they are even good people. There was a story of a passenger (Lin) rescuing a flight attendant (Barrie) after the plane hit, and they hadn't planned anything, he just did this really heroic act for someone. He could have just been thinking about himself and getting himself out of the plane, but he didn't. You usually think of the flight attendants as the people who will take care of people on the plane, and she does work hard, but in this case when she can't help anyone, the roles kind of reverse. I think that is a really moving moment. I really loved the way Elana Elyce portrayed this woman who was sitting at the back of the plane. She is facing a really hard thing; she is basically contemplating her life and realizing the things she has done wrong, and she want to be able to change them. She is having her own heroism inside her head; she is rescuing herself from not having a life well-lived.

I really admired the determination of the pilots (Ansari, Arena, and Sultani) to save others even if they might not be able to save themselves. It is really sad how many people died but it is also amazing how many people survived. It is sad how some people seemed to be rewarded because of their selflessness and other people were selfless but they still died. It would be really great if the world operated on terms of fairness, but it doesn't work like that. I think the point of the play is to show these amazing stories and to show the world how incredible it was that anyone survived this and also how terrible it was that some people didn't. It really makes you think how these freak accidents happen even if you don't deserve for them to happen to you. The play made me think about what I would do if I were in this situation. I would want to be the kind of person to save as many people as I possibly could and go for the greater outcome.

People who would like this show are people who like immersive sets, moving stories, and selfless heroics. I think that people should definitely definitely go see this show. It has a beautiful and amazing message about how we should really appreciate the life that we have and try to live it the best that we can. I think everyone should get the opportunity to go see it.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

1 comment:

Dave Sarks said...

Sounds like quite an interesting play, particularly the style in which you feel like you are sitting in a jet. It certainly sounds like it has the potential to make you think about the fleeting nature of life, especially in tragedies such as this.