Saturday, April 9, 2016

'Distracted' Sets a High Bar at Hollins

"Distracted," is playing at Hollins University through April 17, is a thoroughly engaging and important comedy centered on Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), directed by the inimitable Ernie Zulia and starring Bonny Branch in an impressive performance.

This one delivers a vital message about modern society's constant distractions up to and including ADD, which affects so many of us (including my brother and me). It is a disorder compounded by communications devices and the almost constant noise of daily life.

Lisa Loomer's comedic look at a family's attempt to deal with the nine-year-old son's growing unruliness, delves into home, school, counselor's offices, neighbors and the "F" word coming out of nearly everyone's mouth at one point or another. The mother, played by Branch, is at the center of trying to figure out how to deal with her son's intensifying inattention and unruliness, while the father tends to see it only as a part of growing up.

Under Zulia's direction, the cast of mostly Hollins theater arts students--including Branch, who is new in the program, but a veteran Roanoke actor--shines. Branch is on stage for nearly every moment of the play and she gets some fine support from people like Velencia Lombardi-Chisholm, who plays an obsessive-compulsive neighbor; Ami Trowell of Big Lick Conspiracy, playing three counselors;  Rick Blunt, Hollins' artist in residence, as Branch's husband; Maya Rioux and Emma Sala as professional counselors/psychiatrists; and young Delaney Walker as the voice of the nine-year-old.

Zulia uses lights and large-screen television sets as important elements in the set, which almost becomes a character and the play moves like a living thing, full of life, busy-ness and, well, distraction--even before it begins. Costuming is by Julie Hunsaker, who is well known nationally and has made a mark at Hollins with occasional appearances (remember "Nine"?).

Let me note that because of my partner Margie's near exhaustion after an 18-hour day, we did not remain until the closing credits, but we saw enough of this fine work to strongly recommend it. Like nearly everything produced by the Hollins Theatre Department, "Distracted" sets a high bar.

The remaining schedule is: April 9, 7:30 p.m.; April 15-16, 7:30 p.m. and April 17, 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 and the phone number is (540) 362-6517.

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