By Lisa Loomer
Directed by PJ Paparelli
At American Theatre Company (ATC)
How to raise kids in a drug oriented modern world is dramatically exposed
Lisa Loomer’s dramatic yet funny look at the struggle to raise a precocious, manic, strong-willed child in the modern world of quick fixes and pill-popping gets a stinging presentation at American Theatre Company under the swiftly flowing direction from PJ Paparelli. This is thoroughly engaging, funny yet thought provoking saga of a family trying desperately to do the right thing to raise their hyper child. Distracted is a satirical commentary on present day labeling of social disorders and how we ‘treat’ them.
Donna Jay Fulks (Mama) narrates her family’s struggle to cope with nine year old Jesse (Noah Jerome Schwartz)–a foul-mouthed stubborn child who acts out his angst exuberantly. Mama tries everything to make Jessie behave while Dad (Kevin Rich)–himself a tad hyper-forbids drugging his son.
Mama is left to find a ‘cure’ or a method to get Jesse to be ‘normal’- whatever that means? She get advise from her neighbors–one of which has a son on Ritalin and a daughter on anti-psychotics who cuts herself. Another neighbor is a excessive-compulsive with a drugged-up kid. TV is full of pill-popping commercials; the teachers suggests a psych evaluation for Jessie as he is a terror in her classroom. Mama confers with an MD who refers her to a psychologist but they tests and test Jessie and they conclude he should be put on Ritalin to mellow him out. Mama tries that drug but the side effects hurt Jesse. When Dad forbids continuing to drugging his son–Mama resorts to every wacko cure, homo-pathetic remedy, and new-age machine in a desperate attempt to get her dysfunctional family government to function.
Her journey is hilariously presented with biting satire as our quick-fix drug oriented culture fights abhorrent behavior with a pseudo-science methods. Theses scene are both informative and funny as the cast–lead by the excellent comic touch of Alan Wilder–deftly demonstrate our penchant to label high energy behavior–especially in children–as a social disorder easily controlled by a drug or a combination of drugs. Distracted plays out as a satire of modern society and the medical profession.
Playwright Lisa Loomer gives all sides of the pill or not to pill your wild child controversy leaving us to ponder the correct procedure. Andrea LaSalle’s wide set with 15 TV projections underscored the rapid-paced life style of modern times. Our manic times and electronic gadgets lead to all sorts of quick fixes, so drugging a spirited kid is a ‘no-brainer.’ Or is it? Loomer has a fundamental ‘cure’ for Jesse’s behavior that she discovers at the play’s end. Can unconditional love and spending time fully engaged your child ‘cure’ his problem? See this show and judge for your self.
At the matinee I attended, there were several children in the audience. This is NOT a children’s show and ATC recommends it is for those 14 and older. I agree. Adult language and sexual situations demand common sense. But adults with children should be made to see this intelligent show.
At American Theatre Company (ATC), 1909 W. Byron, Chicago, IL, call 773-409-4125, www.atcweb.org tickets $35 – $50, Thursdays and Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 3 & 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 1 hour, 50 minutes with intermission.