They say the origin of comedy is pain. And perhaps the worst agony one can experience is being the parent to a profoundly unhappy child. It stands to reason, then, that one would expect Lisa Loomer’s Distracted, a timely examination of a boy’s affliction with “attention deficit disorder,” would be nothing less than hilarious. Indeed, it is quite amusing. But her sitcom approach to the topic, while never failing to entertain, manages to elicit no more than an occasional guffaw and a random chuckle or two.
That’s not to say that the playwright doesn’t go to great lengths to grab one's interest. While exploring the ethical dilemma of medicating children with powerful psychotropic drugs, she humorously depicts virtually every fanciful cause and treatment imaginable. She even resorts to having the actors break character and the fourth wall, albeit without ever really going all the way through. And she bombards us with a spectacular multi-media display of information overload, often highlighting suspected A.D.D. sufferers throughout history, from Vincent Van Gogh to George W. Bush.
|Mama on her laptop researches A.D.D.|
|Steve Gold (Dr. Jinks) and "Mama"|
“Mama” desperately seeks an answer to her 9-year-old’s malady, and her character is both the central participant and quasi-narrator. Undaunted by the prodigious volume of dialogue, Karen DeHart deftly wears both hats without ever missing a beat. It’s an impressive display of acting technique and comic timing, but inhabiting each part has an unintended consequence. Try as she might, she remains conspicuously detached from the emotional content of most of her scenes.
|Kate McGrath (Natalie)|
A marvelous assortment of eccentric therapists, teachers and mothers fill out the remainder of the troupe, portrayed with outlandish zeal by Rachel Davidman, Kristin Brownstone, Steve Gold and Jennifer Jane Parsons. Honorable mention goes to Kate McGrath’s (Natalie) nuanced, spot-on depiction of a teenaged babysitter with serious problems of her own; and Mary Lou Torre (Vera), whose very funny and quirky turn is a case study in maternal neurosis!
|Mary Lou Torre (Vera), Mama, and Jennifer Jane Parsons (Sherry)|
And special recognition must go to Kameron Dehart as young Jesse, whose brief appearance onstage steals the show and provides a much needed dose of genuine humanity and optimism. Bravo!