AISLE SAY San Francisco


by Lisa Loomer
Directed by Armando Molina
Presented by TheatreWorks
Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts
500 Castro St., Mountain View, CA / (650) 903-6000

Reviewed by Judy Richter

Attention deficit disorder, ADD, also known as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, seems to be a growing problem among children today. Experts blame it on environmental toxins, diet and/or food allergies, heredity and even vaccines, but no one knows for sure what causes it. Likewise, no one knows for sure how to prevent, treat or cure it, but many remedies have been tried, including drugs like Ritalin.

Faced with a child who probably has ADD, Mama (Rebecca Dines) and Dad (Robert Yacko) explore all possible avenues in Lisa Loomer's "Distracted," being staged by TheatreWorks under the direction of Armando Molina. Still, nothing seems to help 9-year-old Jesse (Gabriel Hoffman), who is heard but who remains offstage for most of the two-act play. Just getting him off to bed at night and to school in the morning frazzles both parents. Once he gets to school, Jesse is disruptive, disturbing his 27 classmates and his overworked teacher, Mrs. Holly (Elizabeth Carter). Doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists and other practitioners (played by Carter, Dena Martinez and Cassidy Brown) aren't much help. Neither are neighbors Sherry (Tara Blau), who swears her son is a different boy since taking Ritalin, and Vera (Suzanne Grodner), who takes drugs like Prozac herself. Teenage neighbor Natalie (Jayne Deely) baby sits Jesse and gets along well with him, but she has her own problems, manifested by cutting.

The production is well acted but overproduced. Molina and his design team -- Melpomene Katakalos, set; Cathleen Edwards, costumes; Michael Palumbo, lighting; Cliff Caruthers, sound; and Jason H. Thompson, videos -- emphasize the distractions in today's society with ringing cell phones, multiple TV screens and loud music. Unfortunately, they rely too much on these peripheral factors, thus distracting the audience from the focus of the play -- the anguish that ADD brings to one well-meaning family. Some of the amusing irony of New Age-type professionals also is lost, as is the intimacy of the family itself. This production is a sharp contrast from the disturbing, thought-provoking version seen at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2007.

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