San Jose’s City Lights Focuses on ADHD Dilema
One of the things theatre does, and City Lights Theatre Company typically excels at, is test the strength of your opinions. I love going into a play thinking I know where I stand on an issue only to discover moments of doubt crop up throughout a play. Discovering the courage behind your convictions may not be so courageous, and the exposure to another perspective is what moves us forward as a society. The ability to have those other sides of the coin as it were, brought to light, is really what it’s all about for me. The examined life it you will. Ultimately, I might end up with the same opinion as I did going in, but it’s exhilarating to be presented with a scenario,where you can honestly say, you can find an exception to your point of view that you would not have thought existed before.
This is the case in Distracted, a fantastic piece of comedic drama by Lisa Loomer which addresses the challenges that faces two parents as they try to cope with a diagnosis and a treatment for their “ADHD” 9-year-old. I don’t know if there is a more topical play running right now. Is there anyone that doesn’t have an experience with or an opinion on attention deficit disorder. Definitions, diagnosis, doctors, medications, alternative treatment, the education system, parenting techniques, there is enough material in this play to make you dizzy, but it’s dealt with in a wonderfully (and aptly) structured format that is both hilarious and heartbreaking.
To medicate or not to medicate, that is one of the big questions and no matter how strong you feel one way or another on this issue, I double dog dare you to not have a moment (if not many) of compassion for the other side as you watch a stellar cast, under clever, consistent direction, and seamless technical production, perform these well researched and crafted scenes. With unapologetic homages to the actual logistics of play production (a nod to double casting, complicated scene changes, and stereotypically unfocused actors) this play breaks the fourth wall as a device to get you to examine your own beliefs and experiences along with the characters. And it works beautifully.
While I personally found the examination of these topics quite humorous, I was also very aware throughout how a parent that has dealt with these issues first hand (or a child) might identify more closely with the pain of this play. Which, is another thing I love about good, contemporary theater. Creating conversation. Getting to know your friend or even the stranger next to you via their personal connections and reactions to the play is a great way to continue to widen the impact and educational component of theatre. Simply put, this is the type of play that can bring you closer to your fellow humans.
On a side note I found it a bit apropos that at the beginning of the second act there was this slight beeping sound that was totally distracting. I don’t know if it was an alarm of some sort, or a phone, or the projector or what, but for a good 20 minutes it was driving me mad and I wished my focus wasn’t so distracted.
All in all, this is a great production, quirky, topical, oddly fun, and emotional and I’m giving it 4 1/2 jewels in the tiara out of 5!
Distracted plays through June 19th at City Lights in San Jose.