House Theatre Presents UNITED FLIGHT 232 Review

The House Theatre of Chicago Presents UNITED FLIGHT 232 Review - Harrowing and Humanistic Real-Life Tale

United Flight 232, the Jeff award-winner from last year’s theatre season, is being remounted by The House Theatre of Chicago. For fans of documentary-style theatre, ensemble pieces, and “inspired by a true story” plays, United Flight 232 is not to be missed. Adapted and directed by Vanessa Stalling from Laurence Gonzales’ book, Flight 232: A Story of Disaster and Survival, this harrowing, humanistic tale takes audiences through the events leading up to, during, and after a plane crash in the 1980s to demonstrate human’s resiliency in the face of disaster.

United Flight 232’s Simple, Evocative Design Draws Audiences In

For anyone who’s flown on a plane recently, the beginning of United Flight 232 will surely generate some serious sense memory. Before finding their seats, audiences are lead into the theatre through a series of hallways resembling the very halls one traverses from airline terminal to airplane (scenic design by John Musial). 

As seats are found (two banks of audience face each other, with the playing space in between) it’s hard not to think of yourself as a passenger in an airplane. After all, both spaces seat strangers together for an extended period of time.

Stalling’s clear, focused adaptation gently builds these blocks of humanity. There is a beauty to the production’s simple and effective theatricality, nowhere exemplified as clearly as in the play’s gorgeously staged third act. As tensions aboard United Flight 232 rise, the camaraderie forged between strangers on a plane just might begin to make some audience members wistful for greater connection with those they sit beside. Laughter, gasps, and tears--both beautiful and tragic--are all a part of experiencing United Flight 232.

Transfixing Acting at The House Theatre of Chicago

Of course, Stalling’s adaptation and direction wouldn’t succeed without a committed cast, and United Flight 232 is full to the brim with nuanced performances that help to create the sparsely designed but richly detailed world of the play. Elana Elyce is particularly moving as she comes to terms with what she believes will be her fate. Equally compelling are Dan Lin and Joseph Sultani, who both turn in appropriately measured performances, carefully ratcheting up each of their characters’ varying waves of despair, hope, and determination. Holding the ensemble together is Brenda Barrie as lead flight attendant Janet Brown, whose fearless and moving performance runs the gamut of human emotion across the play’s brisk hour and a half running time.

Conceived and executed with a graceful clarity by Stalling and her tremendous ensemble, this moving portrait of our shared humanity approaches a collective catharsis in a manner akin to the way the ancient Greeks must have consumed tragedy. United Flight 232’s cumulative effect is one of beauty and speechless transfixion.

Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.

Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago. 



Through October 21st, 2017
Thursdays at 8pm
Fridays at 8pm
Saturdays at 3pm and 8pm
Sundays at 3pm and 7pm


Chopin Theatre
1543 W Division
Chicago, IL


General Admission, $30 to $50.

$15 Student and Industry rush tickets available at all performances.

For tickets visit the House Theatre website or phone at 773.769.3832.


Photos: Michael Brosilow

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