By Natasha Lewin
Terry Trueman’s young-adult novel has now been adapted for the stage by writers Allison Cameron Gray and Matt Chorpenning’s first collaboration together. Stuck in Neutral tells the story of 14-year-old Shawn, a boy with cerebral palsy. Told from Shawn’s point of view, to the outside world he’s a seizure-ridden, ignorable mute — but to his family, he’s an extraordinary boy with regular emotions, desires, and thoughts. His siblings treat him with kindness and understanding as his mom showers him with love and attention. But Sydney, Shawn’s father, wants nothing to do with him.
Shawn reveals his out-of-body personality to the audience throughout the play. Editorializing events, cracking jokes, and staring down the dresses of a friend of his sister all unbeknownst to those around him — Shawn’s a regular kid, only attached to a lifeless body. Though he can’t express affection or his needs, his mother, sister, and brother communicate with him as if he can.
Actor Jonathan D. Black radiates as Shawn with an excellent portrayal of the eagerness and energy, hope and maturity every teenager faces. For co-writer Allison Cameron Gray, the play hits especially close to home, having cerebral palsy herself. “[Stuck in Neutral] raises many important questions about what defines quality of life for those who cannot make their thoughts known.”
Stuck in Neutral is now playing at The Secret Rose Theatre at 11246 Magnolia Blvd. in North Hollywood from May 10 to June 9. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $18 and can be purchased at facebook.com/StuckInNeutralThePlay.