Crash
from the novel by Jerry Spinelli
© 2011

Crash plays football for his middle school. He runs and scores and is unstoppable; he puts his head down and makes yardage; in his life he is selfish, self-centered, unstoppable, a boy running so fast he can’t see the chances for love and connection that are all around him. His new friend, Mike, cherishes all of Crash’s bold and bully characteristics, while his old acquaintance Penn Webb sees a deeper secret hidden Crash that circumstances threaten to bury forever. Life presents Crash with a chance to win really big, but in order to win, he’s going to have to come in second.

This world premiere production is based on the novel by Newbery-medal-winning author Jerry Spinelli. Y York’s clever adaptation offered not only a layered look at bullying, but good humor, pleasing sets and believable characters. The play centers on the main character Crash Coogan, a star football player who knows adoration at his middle school but struggles to gain the attention of his busy parents. His former friend and neighbor Penn Webb is both the target of his bullying and someone who has what Crash craves: the full interest of his parents and the friendship of the new, attractive middle-school girl. When Crash learns Penn is trying to make the Penn Relays team in honor of his great grandfather, Crash decides to race Penn and win the spot for himself. What I liked about Crash’s quest was how it’s about more than taking the spot from his former friend. Winning the race is also a way for Crash to grab his dad’s work-focused vision. But wait, there’s more. Add in sibling rivalry with Crash’s sister Abby, who is furious at Crash for being mean to Penn. And there’s a new middle school boy named Mike, someone who uses the activity of teasing Penn to cement his new bond with Crash. The last layer to this well-thought out play is the heart-grabber. Crash’s beloved grandfather comes to town and suffers a stroke after Crash tackles him during a backyard football game. Lest you think this sounds too dire, know this play is rich with humorous moments. Examples include sister Abby’s quest to turn her mother’s backyard into a native habitat for mice and other creatures and Crash’s absurd purchase of sparkling red heels for his grandfather’s birthday at a second hand store. Even one of the story’s main threads about the capture of Penn’s beloved turtle is rife with light moments and laughter. The recommended age for CRASH is 8 and older, and I’d say this recommendation is spot on. The heavy moments are short and worthy of later discussion and Crash’s evolution from bully to friend makes the story a nice tale for the younger set. -- ParentMap

Comisioned by Seattle Children's Theatre,
Premiere April 2013.

Sadness and hope. These are a few of the feelings I experienced watching the story of CRASH. Crash Coogan seems to have everything: great grades, cool friends, and a school record for most touchdowns in a football game. When Crash’s Grandfather has a stroke, Crash starts to learn that winning Isn’t always the most important thing. Author Jerry Spinelli, who wrote the book that CRASH is based on, has written a powerful story about the challenges that many kids face when growing up, such as friendship issues and family relationships. I could understand and relate to all these challenges. Playwright Y York has done an amazing job of adapting CRASH to the stage, using engaging dialogue to tell the rich story of Spinelli’s book. This play is an engaging emotional journey and a well-acted and compelling story. This show touched me, made me sad, but most of all, gave me hope. -- Eric M. TeenTix.org

2 male adults, 1 adult female, 3 adolescent male, 2 adolescent female
full length
flexible set, multiple locations

The play showing at Seattle Children's Theatre may be called CRASH, but the story is much more subtle in its power, and before you know it, the characters have snuck their way into your heart. At the center of the play is John Coogan, who prefers to go by his nickname, Crash. When two new students move into his school, Crash’s moral compass is put to the test. SCT recommends CRASH for ages 8 and older, so I took my 12-year-old and 9-year-old along to be my co-reviewers. CRASH is based on the book of the same name by Jerry Spinelli. Books often afford the reader the benefit of not only hearing the conversations between characters, but also letting you hear the thoughts in their heads. My 12-year-old son loved the way the play found a way to incorporate some of those important inner thoughts. The play featured several internal monologues by Crash. The lighting would change, and the others on stage would suddenly go into super slow motion while Crash shared his thoughts with us. My 9-year-old daughter’s favorite character was Jane. When I asked her why, she said it was because of the way she made new friends -- that and her shoes. Even more than the characters, my daughter talked about her emotions during the play. CRASH is a bit of an emotional roller coaster. From the highs of quirky humor, to the lows of sadness and worry to the twisting turns of anger, guilt and blame, you truly feel it all during this play. If you’re looking for a way to talk to your kids about bullying, standing up to bullies, accepting people who are different, inclusion and ostracism, the limits of labels, or seeing things from another person’s perspective, this play has all the conversation starters you need. If the complex relationships between the students aren’t enough conversation fodder, there are plenty of family topics as well. Crash’s relationship with his parents is far from ideal. He feels distant from them due to their crazy work schedules. At times he feels neglected, unnoticed and unimportant. It’s a great reminder that even the pretty, popular, sporty kids can struggle with self esteem issues. Then there’s Grandpa Scooter. While only a minor character, his role is pivotal to the play. He is the only one who truly sees Crash and all of his complexities. It is ultimately Grandpa’s nudge that helps Crash realign his priorities with what really matters. It is also a strong reminder about how important relationships with grandparents can be, for grandparents provide things for our children that parents never really can: a perspective from another generation, wisdom beyond Wikipedia, and a winnowing of priorities that only comes with age. As an adult, I couldn’t help reliving bits of junior high and high school as I watched the play. At different times, I identified with different characters, but no doubt about it, they were spot on for the social dynamics that tweens and teens face. It’s hard to find your place. It’s hard to be the new kid at school. It’s hard to feel different or unnoticed. It’s hard being a kid, a parent and a friend. But at least CRASH reminds us that we’re all in it together. Take your kids, take their friends, take your whole family to the play; and maybe take some tissues just in case. -- Kelly Rogers Flynt, Seattle's Child

 

This script is published by Dramatic Publishing.