Raleigh Ensemble Players' Distracted | Theater | Indy Week
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Raleigh Ensemble Players' Distracted 

It's not only one of the great caveats in religious studies but in a number of the medical sciences dealing with the mind as well. We are always subject to the forces we are studying, we learn. As a result, there is no meridian zero where total objectivity is attained.

There's a sense of that—sometimes poignant, sometimes pointed—in Raleigh Ensemble Players' current production of Distracted. In Lisa Loomer's domestic drama/ comedy, a young mother and father grow increasingly agitated about their son's possibly clinical levels of anxiety and distractibility in grade school—while they remain largely oblivious to just how debilitating these forces have become in their own lives. In family scenes and exchanges with the neighbors, we get the sinking feeling early on that the drowned are attempting to diagnose the drowning—that is, when we're not privately benchmarking our own frenzied lives against the far-too-familiar pace reflected on stage.

The professional and domestic juggling act that actor Betsy Henderson's central character is already challenged by becomes more destabilized as her son's difficulties increase. On the deliberately broken pavement of Loomer's script, Henderson's mom has the "just-between-us" vibe of a robust confidant in a one-person show—which the script reveals at one point that the playwright was considering. She shortcuts the narrative, asking other actors to pinch-hit in a supposed jam to play off-stage characters, while other supporting characters ostensibly break in mid-line for their underlying "actor" characters to protest a doctor's conclusion about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or medications like Ritalin and Adderall in particular.

But the underlying point of such devices—that there just isn't enough time in this culture to fully explore any number of discourses anymore—is far less comforting. Indeed, it's hard to tell if the hostility Jason Sharp's husband character evinces at the possibility that his son has ADHD stems more from the possibility that the diagnosis might reflect back on him or the total absence of available time for him to cope with one more thing.

Plot points like these, C. Glen Matthews' beyond-brisk direction and the video backdrops of Bridget Harron and set designer Miyuki Su all underscore the quick-change lockstep of an age that's become super-saturated in stimuli. Amid the snappy patter and coping jokes, a child and a family are threatened in Distracted by an enemy as familiar to most of us as our daily calendar. Perhaps that provoked the standing ovation the cast received on their opening night.


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