Arts and Entertainment

Distracted: BPA presents play about our demanding wired world

Barbara Deering, Ken Enright, Kat Zommers, Todd Erler, SueEllen VanDuyne, Jocelyn Maher, Victoria Brown and Jennifer Jett star in “Distracted,” a play about the wired world of modern life. - Dominique Cantwell photo
Barbara Deering, Ken Enright, Kat Zommers, Todd Erler, SueEllen VanDuyne, Jocelyn Maher, Victoria Brown and Jennifer Jett star in “Distracted,” a play about the wired world of modern life.
— image credit: Dominique Cantwell photo

There’s email, video games and laptops. Then there’s smart phones that are used more for the Internet or Angry Birds than actual phone calls. And there’s On Demand programing for what you missed while watching cat videos on Facebook.

It can all be a little ... distracting.

Using a touch of comedy, “Distracted” is the story of a family coping with the intense demands of the modern world on individual attention spans. It will take the stage at Bainbridge Performing Arts from March 8-24.

“‘Distracted’ is a play about ADHD [attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder], and it’s also about our ADD world,” said director Kate Carruthers. “It’s our wired-up, super connected, distracted world.”

The storyline: Mama receives word that her son Jesse is having trouble in school. He’s distracted and acting out.

Does Jesse have attention deficit disorder? Is he just acting like a boy? Is it something else? Mama embarks on a journey for answers. On her way she encounters a mix of characters that are, perhaps, a bit detached from their own lives.

Using young Jesse as a catalyst, the play comments on an environment filled with electronic devices, mental disorders and more.

“It’s a problem that a lot of parents are facing today,” Carruthers said. “Children who are being raised in an environment that is very different that we had, and are not exposed to the same patterns of behavior that we were.”

Carruthers notes that her generation went to a book to obtain information while today kids will turn to a computer or a smartphone.

“How do we deal, as a society, with all this?” Carruthers asks. “What’s normal? What is not normal?”

“There is an opportunity to think about the culture we live in, how we are using these wonderful timesaving devices and how we relate to people in our lives,” Carruthers said.

And beyond the world of “timesaving devices” are the responses to their effects.

“It’s a journey through diet, psychology, medication and a whole host of other people who have opinions about what should be done,” Carruthers said.

“Distracted,” written by Lisa Loomer, originally premiered in 2007 in Los Angeles. It has since been showcased on stages throughout the country, and has starred notable figures such as Cynthia Nixon of “Sex and the City” fame.

Attention deficit disorder is just one aspect of the play. It also takes a look at other mental matters such as obsessive compulsive behavior, anxiety disorders and cutting.

The issues aren’t anything new.

Todd Erler plays the dad in the play. He also plays a real-life dad off-stage in addition to working as a teacher, and the play echoes aspects of his own life.

“I’ve been teaching for 15 years,” Erler said. “I’ve had about the same number of kids each year — two to three kids — who certainly struggle with focus, struggle with appropriate behavior in school.”

But it’s not just the realm of ADD and anxiety that attracted Erler to the role, it’s also the play’s comments on the tuned-in, yet tuned-out, world.

“It’s a talk about how much time we spend on computers and the phone and how we have entered into this culture of medication,” Erler said. “The downfall of that is that we will end up with a detached culture. I think we are seeing people waking up to that.”

“Are we connected by these things, like Facebook, or are they keeping us separate?” he asked.

Cast, experts expand on show

Bainbridge Performing Arts will offer a post-show discussion after two upcoming performances of Lisa Loomer’s “Distracted.”

The play centers on a 9-year-old boy who may or may not have attention deficit disorder, but he’s not the only character in the play suffering from distractions. All of the characters are pummeled by media, technology, consumerism and their own compulsive behaviors.

What is the impact (for better or worse) of our multitasking, ultra-connected, screen-focused lifestyles on our families, our quality of life, and possibly our brains? BPA will offer a community forum to discuss the issues raised by the play following the March 10 and 17 Sunday matinees. The cast of “Distracted” will be joined by a panel of experts including a psychologist, a parenting coach, a neuroscientist and an elementary school teacher.

Space permitting, the post-show discussions are free and open to the public in addition to the matinee audiences.
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