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"Distracted", Presented by Roundabout Theatre Company
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"Distracted", Presented by Roundabout Theatre Company

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Roundabout Theatre Company
Todd Haimes, Artistic Director

Presents:
Distracted
www.RoundaboutTheatre.org
212.719.1300

By Lisa Loomer
Directed by Mark Brokaw

At
Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre/
The Laura Pels Theatre
111 West 46th Street
New York, NY

With:
Peter Benson, Shana Dowdeswell, Lisa Emery,
Natalie Gold, Matthew Gumley, Mimi Lieber,
Aleta Mitchell, Cynthia Nixon, Josh Stamberg

Set Design: Mark Wendland
Costume Design: Michael Krass
Lighting Design: Jane Cox
Original Music & Sound Design: David Van Tieghem
Projection & Video Design: Tal Yarden
Press: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
Production Stage Manager: William H. Lang
Casting: Carrie Gardner
Production Manager: Kai Brothers
General Manager: Rachel E. Ayers
Director of Marketing & Sales Promotion: David B. Steffen
Founding Director: Gene Feist
Associate Artistic Director: Scott Ellis


Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 12, 2009


Lisa Loomer’s new play about Attention Deficit Disorder, incredibly a comedy-musical, was so fragmented and caustic that I would have rushed out for New Age music and a massage had it been feasible. Full disclosure: I have an early childhood and elementary school, teaching - administrative background, and a good deal of experience with restless students. The subject, for me, is neither comedic nor musical. Rather, it’s a national tragedy that so many young children are medicated to adapt to poor teaching styles, when poorly trained teachers should be made to adapt to individual learning styles. Many children just cannot sit still and silently for hours on end, in abstract rote memorization. Who can? Enough of the pedagogy, which includes a long-running, contentious controversy (child-centered vs. teacher-centered classrooms, and the roles of nutrition and exercise) in the world of education. I could even go on about poor parenting techniques that lead to medicating kids of medicated parents. But, the latter is one of the topics Ms. Loomer lampoons.

Mama, Cynthia Nixon, and Dad, Josh Stamberg, have a son, Jesse, Matthew Gumley, who has to take Ritalin to stay in school, special education, no less. There’s much ado from the school, in campy vignettes, much ado from a psychologist (Peter Benson here and in other roles), on medication himself, to remember names and cases, much ado from the neighbors, also medicated, who have kids who are medicated and acting out in self-inflicted pain, and even much ado from a waitress, who, according to the skit, could use medication to remember her orders. But, the broken plot and broken dialogue are hardly the worst elements of this misconceived production. There is non-stop screaming and swearing, at decibels that could break crystal, with Jesse a seeming mini-monster. When he's finally onstage, in the last scene, he's an adorable young boy, who could have been appealing throughout the play, more onstage than off. Again, not to belabor the stress induced by Ms. Loomer’s work, frenetically directed by Mark Brokaw, but I had hoped early on that there would be no intermission, but, alas, the cacophony returned and continued. Was Ritalin a sponsor?

The only respite from the painful and explosive domestic scenes (enhanced by annoying projections and props) was the occasional campy humor of Mama’s neighbors, a skit about a New Mexico consultation, and a few scenes with Natalie (Shana Dowdeswell), Jesse’s babysitter, who, herself, had serious emotional issues, leading to more black humor, disguised as poignancy. Mark Wendland’s sets and Tal Yarden’s projections were so “Twitter – Blackberry - iPhone - iPod” dizzy, that it was hard to focus on the action, dialogue, music, humor, and, probably, that was the misguided point. Misguided – So, here is a suggestion. Ms. Loomer’s play has a worthy theme and a worthy topic for ongoing dialogue. It could be re-created on a small, Off-Off- Broadway stage, minus the music and projections, with Jesse in full view. It should contain none of the shrill decibels, but, rather, the greater part of Ms. Loomer’s material, with uncluttered humor and authentic poignancy. There is potential here. Meanwhile, Cynthia Nixon, as Mama, has far too much persona and style for this grating production, and Josh Stamberg is an actor I’d like to see elsewhere. As for Matthew Gumley, he’s definitely an artist to watch. Again, elsewhere, or in an intimate re-creation of this play. Kudos to the audience for endurance.








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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net