Thursday, May 14, 2009

Distracted? Recommended!

After making many efforts, I finally saw the play Distracted this week, days before its scheduled closing on May 17, 2009. If you haven't seen it yet, it's worth considering.

Written by Lisa Loomer, Distracted is a "fast-paced and disarmingly funny look at parenting in the age of the Internet and Ritalin," as producer Roundabout puts it. The story revolves around parents (Cynthia Nixon and Rick Holmes) whose concern about their son's behavior grows after a succession of complaints from his teacher and examinations and referrals from mental health professionals. Does her son have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder? How can he be helped? Would medication be appropriate? Can this marriage be saved? The parents explore those questions over the course of the play.

But the play's vision extends beyond one family. Nearly everyone in the community seems to buy into psychopharmacology and the conformity that they hope it will produce. Through prophecy and allegory, science fiction and horror stories used to warn about the downsides of this type of future, which is now part of the real present. So it is fitting that the set design includes projections representing the once-futuristic media saturation that many of us might almost take for granted these days.

In many ways Distracted is not alone in the city's theater scene this season; the Broadway musical Next to Normal deals with a different mental health issue but treats similar concerns about family and treatments with a multi-level house set (but with music!). Even the long-closed Looking for the Pony offered very similar medical consultation scenes.

Along with Peter Benson in multiple medical roles, Cynthia Nixon does an outstanding job in this production—and I note that she does a tiny bit of physical comedy that works much better than similar moments on ...the City (the censored version of Sex and the City that I get to see in syndication). The company also puts some interesting twists on the device of addressing the audience.

If you are looking for "bargain" seats during these last days in the run, I think you can feel confident that the ones on the upper level are fine.

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