Thursday, March 12, 2009

Review: Distracted

Cynthia Nixon

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

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.

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle. and the Episcopal Actors' Guild.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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