Lisa Loomer’s “Distracted” Is an Offbeat Off-Broadway Comedy About Attention Deficit Disorder

Ryan Hinn and Betsy Thompson Henderson star in "Distracted"
Ryan Hinn and Betsy Thompson Henderson star in "Distracted"
"Distracted" runs May 7-21 at 213 Fayetteville St. in Raleigh
"Distracted" runs May 7-21 at 213 Fayetteville St. in Raleigh

Raleigh Ensemble Players will present Distracted, Lisa Loomer’s offbeat Off-Broadway comedy about ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), on May 7-8, 12-14, and 19-21 in its new home at 213 Fayetteville St. in downtown Raleigh, NC. Long-time REP artistic director C. Glen Matthews will stage the show with a veteran cast that includes Amy Bossi-Nasiatka, Jesse R. Gephart, Whitney Griffin, Betsy Thompson Henderson, Ryan Hinn, Brenda Lo, Judy Long, Page Purgar, and Jason Daniel Sharp.

Distracted premiered on March 15, 2007 at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles and later played the Oregon Shakespeare Festival before making its Off-Broadway debut — under the direction of Mark Brokaw — on March 4, 2009 at the Laura Pels Theatre, where it ran until May 17, 2009.

Ryan Hinn and Betsy Thompson Henderson star in "Distracted"
Ryan Hinn and Betsy Henderson star in "Distracted"

“We first heard of Distracted during its Off-Broadway run in 2009,” recalls REP managing director Gary Williams. “The subject matter — a family dealing with a child with ADD — piqued our interest, as we are always looking for pieces that explore modern issues. With REP’s long-time interest in and commitment to the disability community, it seemed like a good fit.

“We got a perusal copy of the script and submitted it to our community-based artistic committee for their opinions,” says Williams. “The reaction was positive, and it was felt that this was a story we needed to tell.”

He adds, “Distracted presents a very relatable struggle in an even-handed and thought-provoking manner. After a diagnosis [of ADD] is made, the script presents many different options for treatment — from prescription drugs to homeopathy. There is a lot of humor in the situations, but the playwright stays away from caricatures.

“Though the specific subject is Attention Deficit Disorder,” says Gary Williams, “I think audience members will see several things that they can relate to personally. In today’s world, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of information available when faced with an uncertain diagnosis or medical situation. The 24-hour news cycle and the Internet can bombard us with options and opinions … and distractions.

REP’s managing director reports, “At the top of the show, Mama (Betsy Henderson) is trying to sneak in some relaxation time, only to be interrupted by the phone and her son Jesse’s (Ryan Hinn) screams from upstairs. Mama and Dad (Jason Sharp) are confronted by teachers and neighbors about their son, eventually sending them on a quest for answers.”

Gary Williams adds, “Judy Long, Amy Bossi-Nasiatka, and Whitney Griffin play neighbors with varying degrees of sympathy. Jesse Gephart, Brenda Lo, and Page Purgar play multiple roles, including doctors, nurses, and teachers.”

In addition to director Glen Matthews and managing director Gary Williams, the Raleigh Ensemble Players creative team for Distracted includes production designer Miyuki Su, media designers and producers Bridget Harron and Miyuki Su, sound designer Becca Easley, and stage manager John Honeycutt.

REP managing director Gary Williams says, “The set has several multileveled platforms and a rake for the main performance area. Also featured is a large projection screen. Multimedia video plays a big part of the design helping us to establish scene location….

“The play is titled Distracted and [that] is very appropriate,” claims Williams. “Props fly in and out. There is constant sound and visual stimulation. Everyone is distracted … even the actors break character and address the audience and each other.”

He adds, “The May 13th show is our accessible performance, featuring audio-description by Arts Access, Large Print and Braille playbills, and a Pre-show Tactile/Touch Tour at 7:15 for patrons with low vision. ([I think] REP is the only theater in the Triangle that provides a tactile tour).”

SECOND OPINION: May 4th WUNC/91/5 FM interview of Gary Williams, Betsy Henderson, and Page Purgar by Amber Nimocks and Frank Stasio for “The State of Things”: http://wunc.org/tsot/archive/Raleigh_Ensemble_Players.mp3/view.

Raleigh Ensemble Players presents DISTRACTED at 8 p.m. May 7, 7 p.m. May 8, 8 p.m. May 12-14, 7 p.m. May 15, and 8 p.m. May 18-21 at 213 Fayetteville St., Raleigh North Carolina 27601.

TICKETS: $20 ($15 students and educators, seniors, and active-duty military personnel), except May 18th pay-what-you-can performance and $10 Student Rush Tickets (sold at the door, 5 minutes before curtain).

BOX OFFICE/GROUP RATES: 919/832-9607, TTY: 919/835-0624, gorep@juno.com, or http://www.realtheatre.org/box_office.html.

SHOW: http://www.realtheatre.org/box_office.html.

PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.realtheatre.org/index.html.

DIRECTIONS/PARKING: http://www.realtheatre.org/directions.html.

NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh (http://www.artsaccessinc.org/) will audio describe the 8 p.m. May 13th performance.

OTHER LINKS:

The Play: http://www.dramatists.com/ (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.) and http://www.lortel.org/ (Internet Off-Broadway Database).

The Playwright: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lisa_Loomer (Wikipedia), http://www.lortel.org/ (Internet Off-Broadway Database), and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0519666/ (Internet Movie Database).

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

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To read all of Robert W. McDowell’s Triangle Theater Review previews and reviews online at Triangle Arts & Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/robert-w-mcdowell/.

By Robert W. McDowell

Robert W. McDowell is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer, editor, and critic. He has written theater, film, book, and music previews and reviews for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, and Classical Voice of North Carolina, all based in Raleigh. In 1980-91, he covered business, industry, government, and education for (We the People of) North Carolina magazine, published monthly by N.C. Citizens for Business and Industry. In April 2001, McDowell started Robert's Reviews, a FREE weekly e-mail newsletter that provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of the performing arts in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, which includes Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro. Triangle Review is the latest-and-greatest version of McDowell's original newsletter. (To start your FREE subscription, e-mail robertm748[at]aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) From December 1980 until September 2017, McDowell served on the board of directors of The Cinema, Inc., a Raleigh-based nonprofit film society formed in 1966. He currently publishes a weekly list of FREE advance screenings of movies in the Triangle area. (To have your e-mail address added to this FREE list, e-mail robertm748[at]aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.) McDowell also co-edited and supervised the production of Jim Valvano's Guide to Great Eating (JTV Enterprises, 1984), a 224-page sports celebrity cookbook; and he served as a fact checker for Valvano: They Gave Me a Lifetime Contract, and Then They Declared Me Dead (Pocket Books, 1991).