Opening Nights: Distracted

The torture of ADHD.

Centered on the pharmaceutical and behavioral travails of a quarreling couple's only child, Distracted is a two-hour birth control pill. If Dr. Snip, the famed vasectomist, were to hitch his wagon to the latest culinary craze and open a "pop-up" clinic next door to ArtsWest, and if he worked late enough to catch exiting male theatergoers, he'd have to auction off appointments, so robust would demand be for on-the-spot sterility. Young Jesse (real-life middle-schooler Cameron Lee), you see, is stricken with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). He includes a "fuck" in every utterance, tells his mom he wants to kill her, and cranks up Eminem in his room instead of going to bed. His folks (Heather Hawkins and Brandon Felker) are split over whether to zombify him with Ritalin or Adderall, a debate that threatens their marriage and is made all the murkier by the fact that seemingly every supporting player—including the family shrink—is on some sort of crack-like antidepressant. This all sound a little dated? Well, it is. And the first half of Lisa Loomer's 2007 play is positively grating; resisting the urge to rush onstage and coldcock either Jesse (child abuse, but so worth it) or his mother takes more willpower than shunning the advances of Roger Sterling in a country-club lounge. Yet structurally—particularly during the many junctures when the actors break through the proscenium and talk directly to the audience—it's meant to annoy you, an adroit commentary on our info-overloaded 21st-century culture. As a play, it mostly succeeds. As an aphrodisiac, it fails miserably. And, like Requiem for a Dream, it's a one-and-done proposition: You'll be happy you sat through it, and even happier that you'll never have to again.

 
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