Attention Deficit 

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In Distracted, playwright Lisa Loomer asks how we can endure an ADD world. The answer is grim: Some folks are going to suffer, no matter the millennium. Whether it be from information overload or moon worship, these people always find a way, and sometimes they're dramatists.

It's a shame, then, that the ills of our wired society must be thrust upon a defenseless, ADD-stricken child. But that's what we get with nine-year-old Jesse (Steve Rathje), who likes hiphop, sleeping in, and the adverb "fucking." That last one is too much for his mother, who's afraid his loose lips will land him in the principal's office. From here, the breathless trifles add up until Jesse's parents (Kimberly Howard and Leif Norby) contemplate something more serious than taking away their son's Wii: whether to put him on Ritalin.

Though the ADD theme quickly sinks into a quagmire of so-fucking-what, Allen Nause's direction for Artists Repertory Theatre does little to throw it a lifeline. From the staging (which boasts several imposing monitors to remind you that, somehow, the phantom antagonist here is technology) to the lack of a dramatic center (Mama's flailing arms don't do it), this production is a mess.

Then there are the gimmicks: the entire play begins as a late-breaking news story flashed up on the monitors (which has nothing to do with the plot); the actor playing a pro-Ritalin doctor (Mark Schwahn) breaks character to confess the wonders the drug has done for remembering lines (See? Everybody's on somethin'!); and little neglected Jesse exists only as a voice, shouting offstage, until it's too late in the play for you to care.

This failure isn't the actors' fault. They clearly have the chops for the material, but are missing the guiding hand to help them collectively decide if Distracted is a satire, a family drama, or a medical pamphlet come to horrific life.

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