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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 18, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 11
Distracted tackles Ritalin issue head-on
Arts & Entertainment
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Distracted tackles Ritalin issue head-on

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Distracted
ArtsWest
Through April 2


Have you heard about teachers who demand that a child must take medication if he or she is thought to have ADHD? The pressure put on parents to medicate their hyperactive kids so that schoolrooms can cope better is a big part of what playwright Lisa Loomer writes about in Distracted, now playing at ArtsWest. It's a smart, bracing look at this modern condition.

Mama has a very energetic 9-year-old boy, Jesse. Mama is played by Heather Hawkins as a sardonic and intelligent parent who is not a pushover for drugs. She looks medicines and other natural treatments up on the internet, she discusses options with her husband, and she tries to figure out what is best for her son.

Jesse is played with great gusto by young Cameron Lee, who gets to swear like a sailor and make a big racket. (There's a note in the program about ArtsWest getting 'full parental permission' for his participation so people won't worry that his parents don't know what he's supposed to do and hear on stage.) ArtsWest has already heard from patrons that the subject matter hits some close to home, and who felt overwhelmed enough to leave at intermission.

The play is written with a tongue-in-cheek, talk-to-the-audience attitude where the production feels more like a demonstration of their lives than a play where we have to believe we're watching people who don't know we're there. They definitely know we're there. So, they explain what they're going through: the teacher conferences, the referral to school psychologist, the referral to family doctor, the referral to neurologist, the referral to psychiatrist, the referral to naturopath, the suggestions by helpful neighbors.

It's a modern life with all the internet connections, Google searches, cell phones, TV, and other technology on full display on stage. Burton Yuen is credited as 'production designer' since he designed the cool open frame of a house that includes white projection walls, and also the sound and video design of what gets projected.

Brandon Felker plays Dad. Dad is present and caring, though he doesn't take the lead on the matter. He leaves it mostly to Mama, except for declaring that no kid of his would take medicine, period. Mama mostly agrees, though she is open to finding out more. Felker plays Dad as a big kid, with more than a hint that Dad might have ADD, too, which is said to be hereditary.

LaVon Hardison, Nikki Visel, Zach Adair, and Ashley Marshall provide solid support in multiple roles of doctors, teachers, and neighbors. Christopher Zinovitch directs. While opening night had some choppy moments, the likelihood is that it will settle nicely as everyone gets used to the rhythms. The effect of overwhelming input from technology is deliberate, and used effectively to make the audience feel somewhat distracted.

Also deliberate is the soft ending, not really resolving the issue, not really finishing the story, but leaving open the idea that there is not one right answer. Each family and each situation will need a different journey and maybe a different result. For this family, spending more quality time together might be their best answer.

For more information, go to www.artswest.org or call 206-938-0339.

Discuss opinions at sgncritic@gmail.com.

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