I loved this play!
Distracted at Olympia Little Theatre is one of those productions where, halfway through, I was thinking, "Please don't screw up the ending, ‘cause Act 1 was terrific." Then I was sorry it ended at all. It's that good.
I don't mean it's without imperfections. Opening night, actors lost their place once or twice in an episodic timeline, though the nature of the script made it possible to cover with aplomb. This being community theater, some actors are quite a bit greener than others; indeed, opening night marked the first appearance on stage for at least one performer. But when actors with varying experience and technical vocabularies come together in a unified gestalt, the director deserves much of the credit - and although this is only Jim Patrick's one-and-a-halfth time at the conn (he rescued A Few Good Men when its first director bailed), I'm beginning to suspect he may be one of the best directors working in the South Sound area.
It's hard to say, because I've never watched one of his rehearsals, and he clearly benefits from an amazing script by Lisa Loomer.
It's easy to date the piece to 2007, the year it premiered; characters patronize Borders, complain about Dubya and bandy a rumor (since disproven) that childhood vaccinations cause autism. But Distracted is so funny, and breaks the fourth wall so in many wonderfully unfamiliar ways, that we hang on every word.
I should warn you, by the way, that many of those words have four letters and start with F. There's a profusion of swearing, by both adults and children, and it clearly surprised OLT's aging and childrearing patrons. We noticed intermission walkouts, so I hope this review helps Distracted find audience members who will truly appreciate it. And who are those audience members? In a word, parents. My wife and I are childless by choice, but we related to the struggles of Mama and Dad Cara, whose son Jesse is a lovable but loose cannon. The Caras try homeopathy, allergy treatments, positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, meditation and counseling. We see plainly what they resist seeing: Jesse suffers from ADHD. They don't want to put their 9-year-old son on mind-altering speed, and the family begins to unravel.
We connect to these struggles deeply and personally, and that's a mark of effective acting technique. In his first lead role, Steven Vocke is cast perfectly as Dad, whose genes may have contributed to Jesse's hardships. Loomer wisely keeps Jesse offstage, but the voice of Quinn Hargrove remains a sympathetic presence throughout the play. That brings us to Mama, portrayed beautifully by Elizabeth Shé. I learn from her bio that she studied at major drama schools, then played a werewolf in Hungary for straight-to-video Howling sequels. Well, your loss, movie business, because she's exceptional - as charming a stage presence as I've seen on any local stage. This show rests squarely but securely on her shoulders.
Distracted is the kind of play I'm thrilled to review but would rather be in. I can think of no higher praise than that.
[Olympia Little Theatre, Distracted, through April 29, 7:55 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 1:55 p.m. Sunday, $10–$14, 1725 Miller Ave. NE, Olympia, 360.786.9484]