BWW Review: The Adrienne Arsht Center and The House Theatre of Chicago's UNITED FLIGHT 232
Last night the heaven's opened the flood gates and it rained as if a hurricane was upon us in Miami, Florida. I have never seen so many lightning bolts nor that much flooding on I-95. Although not many people braved the storm, I was proud to be among the few that came to watch the Adrienne Arsht Center and The House Theatre of Chicago's UNITED FLIGHT 232. In one word, exquisite. The storytelling was incredibly inspired. I have a brand new appreciation and love for documentary style theatre.
In the intimate Carnival Studio Theatre, it was hard not to hear the very visceral response the audience was having. As tears ran down my face, I could hear the muffled sounds of crying as the remarkable cast told the true story of the fatal United Flight 232 crash. The play is adapted for the stage from the critically acclaimed book, Flight 232: A Story of Disaster and Survival by Laurence Gonzales.
Truthfully, I had not read the book and was only a few years old when the crash happened. I was unaware of the incidents of that day until I started my research but that did not matter. From the moment the play commenced, we were pulled into the world of the play and started to forge a very real connection to each character in the story; A true credit to director, Vanessa Stalling, and her actors. Although the actors played multiple people, we felt a strong connection to each one.
What a tough story to tell. We know from the get go that about half of the plane will not survive. On July 19, 1989, a DC-10 jet airliner headed for Chicago O'Hare International Airport with 296 passengers and crew aboard, was paralyzed mid-air after its tail engine failed. For 44 minutes, the aircraft descended without flight controls and its heroic flight crew made an emergency crash landing in Sioux City, Iowa. The plane split into several parts, but to the astonishment of all who witnessed the event, 184 of 296 on board survived.
The actors were complete vessels. The story so beautifully crafted. The crash sequence so surreal. It actually took my breathe away. Without revealing too much (because they play is a MUST SEE), the actors in slow motion and all the technical elements in the crash did what poetry does for the written word. It was poetic in its depiction of the moment of the crash. If the actors were poetry, then the director the poet. The choice of having empty chairs for those that didn't survive and the empty space just lit for the child that was on the lap of it's mother with no chair was brilliant. It was more than brilliant; it was heart wrenching. I feel like everyone needs to know your child under 2 needs a chair on the plane all their own! It doesn't matter if it's free. It shouldn't be. PAY FOR IT! It may save their life!
After the play, I was honored that a few actors came out to speak to the audience. It felt right that after we were in this small dark room crying and connecting that we could see them one last time. I had the joy of speaking to Michael E. Martin who mentioned that he had been honored to perform in front of one of the real life heroes he portrayed. I was able to speak to Brenda Barrie again and thank her for her performance. When I first interviewed her I had not yet had the experience of seeing the production. Hearing about the show could never replace the experience of watching the show. I could truly understand her absolute honor in playing Jan Brown once I had watched it myself.
This award-winning play depicts the power of the human spirit to defy unimaginable obstacles and transcend tragedy. UNITED FLIGHT 232 tells the survivors' story and celebrates human integrity in the face of overwhelming challenges. Through the tears, you will find hope. People inherently will be there for one another. This play leaves you with a sense of hope in the face of tragedy.
UNITED FLIGHT 232 closes Center's 2018-2019 Theater Up Close Series. Playing May 4-May 19, 2019 in the intimate Carnival Studio Theater (Ziff Ballet Opera House). The Arsht Center's 2018-2019 Theater Up Close Series is supported by Adrianne and Jerry L. Cohen, Alan and Diane Lieberman and the Hotel Croydon Miami Beach.
Photos by Michael Brosilow
*All programs, artists, ticket prices, availability, dates and times are subject to change without notice. Visit arshtcenter.org for up-to-date information.
The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County is made possible by the public support of the Miami-Dade County Mayor and the Board of County Commissioners, the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council, the Miami-Dade County Tourist Development Council and the City of Miami Omni Community Redevelopment Agency, as well as the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture. The Adrienne Arsht Center also receives generous support from individuals, corporations and local, state and national foundations.
Set in the heart of downtown Miami and designed by world-renowned architect Cesar Pelli, the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County is one of the world's leading performing arts organizations and venues. Since opening in 2006, the Arsht Center, a 501C3 non-profit organization, has emerged as a leader in presenting innovative programming that mirrors South Florida's diversity as well as a catalyst for billions of dollars in new development in the downtown area. Spotlighting legends and serving as a launch pad for local artists to make their mark on the international stage, the Center presents nearly 400 events each year across its flexible, state-of-the-art performance spaces. The Center programs several Signature Series, including the largest jazz series in South Florida, a major annual Flamenco Festival, and a robust program of new theatrical works as well as free programming for the community and an arts education program that serves nearly 60,000 children each year. As Miami's new Town Square, the Arsht Center also houses BRAVA by Brad Kilgore, a fine dining restaurant; the Café at Books & Books in the historic Carnival Tower and a weekly Farmers Market. Visit arshtcenter.org for more information.
The House Theatre of Chicago is the city's premier home for intimate, original works of epic story and stagecraft. Founded and led by Artistic Director Nathan Allen and driven by an interdisciplinary ensemble of Chicago's next generation of great storytellers, The House aims to become a laboratory and platform for the evolution of the American theatre as an inclusive and popular artform.
The House was founded in 2001 by a group of friends to explore connections between Community and Storytelling through a unique theatrical experience. Since becoming eligible in 2004, The House is the winner of 24 Joseph Jefferson Awards and became the first recipient of Broadway in Chicago's Emerging Theater Award in 2007, and was awarded a 2014 National Theatre Company Grant by the American Theater Wing, founder of the Tony Awards. This is the eighth season The House has brought their work to The Arsht Center's Theatre Up Close series.
Now in its 17th year of original work, The House continues its mission to unite audiences in the spirit of Community through amazing feats of Storytelling. www.TheHouseTheatre.com