BWW Reviews: DISTRACTED at ArtsWest
ArtsWest continues their streak of Seattle Premieres with "Distracted" by Lisa Loomer. Unfortunately as topical and fresh as the subject matter is, the production itself seemed to take the title, "Distracted" and use it as a watchword for the tone of the show.
Originally produced Off Broadway in 2009, the story follows your average suburban family. Mama (Heather Hawkins) and Dad (Brandon Felker) are doing their best to cope with their rambunctious son Jesse (Cameron Lee). But is he just a normal energetic kid or is there something more serious happening with him? Is it ADD or just youth? That's the central question here. That and do you medicate kids to make them more manageable? And while a heady hot button in today's society, the subject is treated very tongue in cheek allowing the audience to laugh at these troubles that have become all too familiar in our society.
The script itself it crisp and clever but I felt that some of the subtle nuances of the story and characters were overlooked for the sake of laughs. And that lack of subtlety resulted in the show starting out at 55 miles per hour and rarely wavering. It all just seemed stuck on one note and made for a not so interesting evening. In fact the first moments of quiet emotion and differing levels didn't seem to come until late in Act Two and by then it was too late. With that amped up energy it seemed the actors were always reaching for the next joke which gave the show a very unfocused and uneven feel. That compounded with the constant use of projections (often times overused) to emphasize the moment made the show feel all over the place. When you project the same thing that your actors are reading or saying, the audience will alternate between listening and reading and split their focus. I understand the desire to play with the new trend of projections but here it just felt ... well ... distracting. I'm not certain if these elements were a choice from director Christopher Zinovitch to draw the audience into their own state of agitation but I don't feel it helped the flow or the basic storytelling of the show and really just diluted what were some fine performances.
Hawkins is likeable as the Mother trying to hold it all together and you want to root for her but as she set a lot of the manic tone of the piece she came across less as trying to do anything to help her child and more as not caring. Felker managed to pull out some fine moments as the Father who wants nothing to do with these medications and had a great deal of stage presence but he almost seemed to be fighting with the pace. And Lee showed a lot of promise for a very young actor as the son caught in the middle of this struggle between managing a child's emotions or letting them be a kid. But I have to say the most enjoyable moments came from ensemble players LaVon Hardison and Zach Adair who turned out multiple characters during the evening. Hardison showed some wonderful range in some very diverse characters all trying to push these parents to "control" their son. And Adair was hilarious as the parade of doctors all with their own methods to manage the child.
All in all it's a nice production but just a bit choppy and lacking focus and intention. Maybe that will come in time during the run but for now it seems like the production is the one with ADD.
"Distracted" plays at ArtsWest through April 2nd. For tickets or information contact the ArtsWest box office at 206-938-0339 or visit them online at www.artswest.org.
Photo Credit: Michael Brunk