This Look at ADD Keeps Your Attention
By Lauren Yarger
Jesse is acting up in class and at home and showing classic symptoms of ADD (officially Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD), but what’s causing it and what should his parents do about it?
In Distracted, playing at the Roundabout Laura Pels Theatre Off-Broadway, playwright Lisa Loomer takes a humorous, sensitive and thought-provoking look at the issue affecting an increasing number of kids and their families every day in this country.
Cynthia Nixon of TV’s "Sex and the City” fame stars as the unnamed “Mama” who tells the audience about her search for answers to help her son (the very talented Matthew Gumley who is heard from offstage, but not seen for most of the show). A cast of characters materializes to enact the experiences with several actors playing multiple roles and often hilariously letting the audience know exactly what they are thinking in the situations. It’s a clever device under the skillful hand of director Mark Brokaw.
Mama hears from Jesse’s teacher (Aleta Mitchell), his psychologist (Natalie Gold), a psychiatrist, a homeopathic doctor and the head of a holistic clinic (all Peter Benson). She even takes advice from neighbors (Lisa Emery and Mimi Lieber) and a slew of other characters. about the disorder's cause is genetic, chemical or “all your fault," they tell her as Mama discovers that no one seems to know for certain what causes the problem, but the most common fix seems to be the drug Ritalin.
Dad (Josh Stamberg) is in denial, attributing Jesse’s behavior to just being a 9-year-old boy and threatens to divorce Mama and sue for custody if she insists on medicating him. Meanwhile, Mama tries to juggle finding a solution for Jesse with other demands for her attention like the always-ringing phone, keeping up with her sole interior design client, helping Jesse’s emotionally troubled babysitter who cuts herself (Shana Dowdeswell) and trying to have sex or a conversation with her husband without distractions.
Constant attention grabbers are visualized in Mark Wendland’s simple two story set separated into six frames containing video projections (Tal Yarden) of web pages, headlines, news, television programs and clocks (lighted by Jane Cox). The chaos is highlighted with toys littering the place, props sliding on and off and original music and sound design by David Van Tieghem.
Loomer expertly uses humor throughout the play. Highlights are Benson, stepping out of character as the psychiatrist who also happens to have ADHD to assume the role of an actor with ADHD playing the psychiatrist, and Emery as obsessive-compulsive Vera. All of the performances are dynamic, including Nixon’s touching portrayal of a mother willing to do whatever it takes to help her son.
The show takes a personal look at one family’s experience with ADHD. You’ll either relate or understand a friend’s situation better and enoy a few laughs along the way.
Distracted runs at the Pels, 111 W. 46th Street, NY through May 17. Tickets are available by calling 212-719-1300 or at http://www.roundabouttheatre.org/.
Christians might also like to know:
• Language (lots of it from Jesse)
• Meditation form of prayer
• The babysitter's cutting disorder is discussed at length
• Lord’s name taken in vain.