NOTHING DISTRACTING ABOUT UNICORN’S LATEST HIT

 Tired of endless holiday muzak congealing in every corner of your life? Need a distraction, maybe? Cynthia Levin and her Unicorn cohorts have just the thing– Lisa Loomer’s very au courant new comedy DISTRACTED, now through next Sunday, December 12, on the U’s mainstage, 3828 Main in midtown. Talk about your pick me up…

Loomer has a sharp eye for the foibles of modern life and Director Levin and her company get all of the twists and turns in this often laugh-out-loud piece about a family’s coming to terms with their ADHD child. Wait.. did he say ADHD? Laugh out loud? Comedy?

I know– it sounds harrowing, right? Loomer could have written a turgid tome about family dysfunction– a new millenial long day’s journey. Mama (a brilliant Katie Gilchrist) and Dad (good work from Rusty Sneary) may not be the Tyrones, but they have their hands full and with just one son, the plenty heard but little seen Jesse (played just right by Zackary Hoar). This Mama’s got no time for weepy boozing. There’s a client on the phone, Sponge Bob on the tube and junior’s Ritalin to administer. 

And talk about your distractions. In one of the best scenic designs I’ve ever seen at the Unicorn– bravo Tabitha Pease, Richard Spreker and the rest of the sharp design team–video screens and projections, cell phones and the home entertainment unit compete for the family’s attention with pop psychologists, well-meaning school officials and nosey neighbors. Loomer takes these archetypes to the edge of reality (and maybe a little beyond– I wasn’t fond of all the fourth wall breaks), serving up an absurd world that is sadly too familiar to us all.

Did I mention Katie Gilchrist as Mama was brilliant? In the role originated in New York by Cynthia Nixon (Miranda on "Sex in the City"), Gilchrist positively radiates hope, disappointment and frustration, never giving up on the trash talking offspring she loves unconditionally, The play swirls around her; she’s its heart and soul. Your own heart breaks when she can’t square the psychiatrist’s RX with her unstinting belief that pouring poison down that little mouth can’t be the answer. In Gilchrist’s capable hands, this grizzly Mamma puts Sarah Palin to shame.  

Rusty Sneary as Dad may have the tougher assignment here. Of course he wants to save his son, his marriage– bring everything back to a simpler time. But he’s got to go to work, answer the phone. He won’t accept the diagnosis, won’t come to grips with the possilibity that his world may be tarnished; he’s in denial. Sneary steers clear of the bad Dad thing. You feel for him, too– feel for all of them. 

Though you don’t feel for all of the crazy helpers surrounding– burying–Mama, Dad and Jesse. Talk about your distractions. Mark Thomas plays a whole host of nutty medical professionals, each one with just the right answer for the family. Thomas has a ball with this role– and he’s still a student! (DISTRACTED is a joint presentation of Unicorn and the UMKC Theatre Department). Dittos for Dina Kirschenbaum and Amy Urbina, along with older pros Rachel Hirshorn, Andi Meyer and Moliann McCulley. Great cast. Great casting, Cynthia. 

Theater is at its best when it holds up a mirror to society, so we can see how fucked up things really are. Lisa Loomer’s well-written play, in the hands of a fine cast and design team, make that happen. It closes next Sunday. Make plans to get over there before you get distracted. 

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