Distracted by Lisa Loomer is a vehicle for conveying a ton of information and points of view about how and why we humans try to distract ourselves from what needs attention in our lives. But it's art too, brilliant in its seamless layeredness and individual-to-global relevance.
On the surface it is about a couple whose hyperactive 9-year-old son is wearing them out at home and getting in serious trouble at school because of his behavioral issues. Does he have Attention Deficit Disorder or just a lot of energy? No one seems to know for sure, at least at first.
And even after he is diagnosed, no one seems to know for sure what to do about it, if anything. There is a lot of humor and a lot of passionate opinion. A lot of disagreement, a lot of options.
Under Millicent Wright’s direction, Amy Hayes and Ronn Johnstone are relatable and complex as Mama and Dad. For most of the show we only catch glimpses of Jesse (Colin McCabe) as he tears around backstage, shouting the scene numbers in between cursing and refusing to put on his pajamas, but McCabe's portrayal is spot on and endearing.
The rest of the ensemble, some of whom play more than one role, support the family’s story deftly as doctors, teacher and neighbors, many with their own distraction-related issues. The ensemble includes Scot Russell, Jamillah Gonzalez, Kelsey Leigh Miller, Beverly Roche, Callie Burk and Susie Sullivan.
The audience sits on three sides of the minimalist set and there is no fourth wall. It is as if we are part of the family, too, trying to figure out what to do. At one point when they are fighting, Dad asks Mama, “Who do we know that IS a good listener?” The audience thinks, and maybe even says aloud, as I did, “We are! We have been listening deeply to you!” But the Dad is quick to point out that we, too, are just relating their conversation to our own problems. This, too, is true.
I loved that the playwright points out not only the hassles of ADHD but also its gifts. I also loved that she manages to be completely non-judgmental while also saying, “It’s important to keep trying to understand. It’s important to keep trying to pay attention.”