BWW Reviews: First Stage Challenges Surviving Bullies in CRASH

BWW Reviews: First Stage Challenges Surviving Bullies in CRASH

An understated, sensitive presentation on bullying and how a family faces their broken relationships appears in the current First Stage production Crash. Prolific playwright Y York's adaptation of award winning author Jerry Spinelli's young adult novel by the same title arrives at the Todd Wehr Theater courtesy of Mark Hare's scenic design where John "Crash" Cougan, the main character lives. A two story frame house constructed in fragments, with jagged holes for windows and a roof, the pieces broken apart, illustrates the challenges Crash's family faces.

In the serious play intermingled with humorous touches, Crash lives with his sister Abby, while his parents stretch their time to adequately provide for their two growing children. The young teenager plays football, scores six touchdowns, achieves honor grades and struggles to define who he wants to be: the friend of Penn, a small-statured, smart childhood companion or embrace Mike, who challenges Crash into bullying the Quaker Penn.

Budding romance also happens for Crash with a lovely girl named Jane in the second act, while Crash's grandfather Scooter changes the family's day to day course with a life-threatening event. On opening night, the "Offense" cast performed with William Esty creating a Crash "whose whole insides are bursting out" with emotions difficut to understand at times, a very realistic place for young men to find themselves.

Matthias Wong portrays a charming, confident Penn, a boy with a pet turtle named Tom, while the willowy Mary Elsa Heinrichs as Jane pairs well with the trio of young men who vie for her approval, including Elliott Brotherhood's gutsy Mike DeLuca. A highly accomplished adult cast features Deborah Staples, Jonathan Wainwright, Robert Spencer and debuting Director Mary MacDonald Kerr, who mentor these young performers while the adult's career experience adds substantially to the play's production. Spencer most notably fills the role of Granfather Scooter, an actor who needs to make a difficult transition in his physical abilities during the 90-minute performance.

While the complete performance moves quickly from scene to scene, numerous topics come to light in the script: consumerism, environmentalism, kindness, loyalty, religious differences, urbanization and finally accepting the challenge of change while encountering critical choices in one's life, whether as an adult or a youth. All these topics perfectly worthy to discuss, to involve educators or parents in realistic conversations of the complex play after a performance along with exploring the "bullying" experience seen from all angles, including how a bully can be born in the heat of one moment. .

Spinelli's Crash studies the character of each person written into Y York's cast, adults and youths, to instill in the audience an appreciation of the difficult challenges young people and working families face during change, especially during this tumultuous economic and technology based 21st century. When choosing one's behavior wisely will determine a family's or a young person's life course, righting a wrong or avoiding crushing emotional circumstances many people encounter on daily basis today. Please challenge an adult or youth by attending this heartwarming and sincere First Stage production, and then spend time, significant family and friend time, sharing the theater experience.

First Stage presents Crash in the Todd Wehr Theater at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts through April 13. For information, performance times or tickets please call 414.273.7206 or

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Peggy Sue Dunigan Peggy Sue Dunigan earned a BA in Fine Art, a MA in English and then finished with a Masters of Fine Art in Creative Fiction from Pine Manor College, Massachusetts. Currently she independently writes for multiple publications on the culinary, performance and visual arts or works on her own writing projects while also teaching college English and Research Writing in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her other creative energy emerges by baking cakes and provincial sweets from vintage recipes so when in the kitchen, at her desk, either drawing or writing, or enjoying evenings at any and all theaters, she strives to provide satisfying memories for the body and soul.


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