Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 6, 2011


New Century Theatre
Smith College, Northampton, MA
through July 9, 201
by Emily List

New Century Theatre presents "Distracted," a superbly acted play written by Lisa Loomis and directed by Sam Rush that follows a mother's struggle to cope with life after her son is diagnosed with Attention-Deficit-Hyper-Activity-Disorder. "Mama," played by Cate Damon, develops an immediate intimacy with the audience, breaking the fourth wall and confiding honestly with the spectators about a day in the life with her behaviorally challenging son Jesse, a character who is heard but not seen until the play's final moments.

Almost all of the characters within the play acknowledge the audience members as confidantes, a device that allows them to say what should never be said within the world of the play. The hilarious Jeannine Haas as the persnickety Dr. Waller confides to the audience what she is thinking about Mama but cannot say to her; "You're a horrible mother."

Moments of humor like this punctuate the extremely dialogue-heavy script. Humorous one-liners are delivered with expertly deadpan expressions and inflection. At one point, a struggling and distracted Mama answers the telephone. "I'd love to give to the alumni association, but I haven't lived up to my potential and I can't afford it right now," she says matter-of-factly. The actors also infuse the play with moments of striking vulnerability. The excellent Brian Joseph Smith as Dad, spends much of the play violently, yet with strength and humor, opposing the decision to medicate Jesse for ADHD. He ultimately breaks down in his bedroom, crying, "I just want our son to be normal."

The moments of raw truth, tenderness, tension and frustration in an everyday setting are shared between actors and audience, and with Mama's decision that the best gift she can give her ADHD son is her attention, actor and audience momentarily share a sigh of relief.