Thursday, February 12, 2009


Question: What is the line dividing a young boy’s healthy, energetic behavior from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)? Answer: That’s what the mother (Cynthia Nixon) and father (Josh Stamberg) in Lisa Loomer’s entertaining new play Distracted would like to know. Jesse is an enthusiastic, recalcitrant nine-year-old with a great love of the word “fuck” and all its related permutations. His teacher complains about his behavior, but is she just too overwhelmed with her 28 other students to allow him to be himself? His psychiatrist is ready to medicate him. His father thinks he’s just a normal boy, with a normal boy’s wildness. His mother doesn’t know what to think, but she suspects everything is her fault.

Loomer takes this family’s particular situation and then pulls back to examine how it fits into today’s overmedicated world of endless media stimulation. Her approach, combining family comedy-drama with meta commentary, is largely effective; Distracted is funny and moving. The cast is solid, with standout work from Peter Benson as a series of well-meaning doctors. At the early preview I saw, the show was in very good shape, albeit some twenty minutes too long. With some trimming, and more time for the actors to grow into their roles, it might well become excellent. Distracted opens on March 4.

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