Luna Gale at the Adobe Rose Theatre

LUNA GALE AT THE ADOBE ROSE The Adobe Rose Theatre is in­ter­ested in so­cially rel­e­vant the­ater that grabs an au­di­ence with im­me­di­acy.

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Luna Gale, a play by Re­becca Gil­man about the fos­ter­care sys­tem in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is the first pro­duc­tion at Santa Fe’s new­est per­for­mance venue and com­pany, the Adobe Rose Theatre. Founded by Mau­reen McKenna on Park­way Drive off Ru­fina Street, the Adobe Rose is a pro­fes­sional black-box space with mov­able seat­ing that eas­ily trans­forms from prosce­nium stage to thrust stage to the­ater-in-the-round, based on the needs of a show. Luna Gale, di­rected by Wendy Chapin, is staged in a tri­an­gle to sym­bol­ize the psy­cho­log­i­cal map­ping of de­struc­tive in­ter­ac­tion be­tween peo­ple in con­flict, known as the Karp­man drama tri­an­gle. This ar­range­ment also makes the play’s nu­mer­ous quick scene changes more fluid, ex­plained de­signer Ge­off Webb, tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor of the Adobe Rose. Set­tings are es­tab­lished via video pro­jec­tions that give the au­di­ence sev­eral dif­fer­ent an­gles on a given lo­ca­tion — the emer­gency room at a hos­pi­tal, a grubby apart­ment, a case­worker’s of­fice, a kitchen — and, by ex­ten­sion, greater in­sight into each char­ac­ter.

In Luna Gale, Sabina Dunn plays Caro­line, a fos­ter­care case­worker with 25 years on the job and a new, much younger su­per­vi­sor, Cliff (Peter Chapman), whom she doesn’t trust. The story be­gins in the ER, when Caro­line spots two meth heads in their late teens — Kar­lie (Mairi Chanel) and Peter (Dy­lan Mar­shall) — who are wait­ing for their in­fant daugh­ter to be treated for fever, di­ar­rhea, and de­hy­dra­tion. Caro­line says they can’t have their baby back, so to avoid Luna be­ing placed in a foster home, Kar­lie calls her mother, Cindy (Lynn Good­win), to take tem­po­rary guardian­ship. Luna Gale in­cludes themes of religious fa­nati­cism, sex­ual abuse, truth, and hypocrisy, and touches on the deeply frus­trat­ing lay­ers of bu­reau­cracy and the po­ten­tial for trau­matic burnout that is in­trin­sic to the life of a case­worker. A sub­plot about a girl named Lour­des (Jo­ce­lyn Mon­toya), who ages out of the sys­tem, adds yet an­other level of com­plex­ity.

On pa­per, Luna Gale bears some re­sem­blance to a po­lice pro­ce­dural or movie of the week, heavy on hot-but­ton so­cial is­sues and light on in­sight, but the play re­sists th­ese traps through care­ful char­ac­ter de­vel­op­ment. The char­ac­ters are re­vealed to be more than what they seem and, un­like on most tele­vi­sion shows, they are al­lowed to change and grow in un­ex­pected ways. Gil­man was in­spired to write the play af­ter see­ing a PBS Front­line doc­u­men­tary, Fail­ure to Pro­tect, about case­work­ers in Maine. All of Gil­man’s ref­er­ences to pol­icy, as well as the un­sat­is­fy­ing re­hab op­tions for Kar­lie and Peter, are specif­i­cally ac­cu­rate to Cedar Rapids. In or­der to get her daugh­ter back, Kar­lie tries to stay clean by do­ing craft projects in a sup­port group with other young meth-ad­dicted moth­ers be­cause no beds are avail­able in an ac­tual detox fa­cil­ity. It is clear Caro­line has faced this chal­lenge more times than she can count. Th­ese im­pos­si­ble hur­dles lead Caro­line to make an eth­i­cally ques­tion­able de­ci­sion that pro­pels the se­cond half of the play.

“I’ve been speak­ing to so­cial work­ers, and one of them said they can usu­ally only do some­thing af­ter a tragedy takes place, so to be proac­tive is re­ally step­ping across the line,” Dunn said. She also watched the Front­line doc­u­men­tary. “You re­ally didn’t like the so­cial work­ers in it. They came in and took th­ese kids away, but they turned out to be right about what was hap­pen­ing in the fam­ily, be­cause of their ex­pe­ri­ence. Peo­ple are go­ing to be split about what Caro­line does, or they may un­der­stand it while at the same time not ap­prov­ing of it.”

“This is the bril­liance of Gil­man’s writ­ing. She does deep re­search. She’s con­nected to all the char­ac­ters — you never feel her give short shrift,” Chapin said, who has a mas­ter’s de­gree in art ther­apy from South­west­ern Col­lege and has worked with in­cest sur­vivors. She equates th­ese chil­dren with those

who grow up in foster care: Both lack a sta­ble un­der­stand­ing of love and sup­port, and of­ten re­peat pat­terns of abuse in their other re­la­tion­ships.

Chapin, who be­gan her ca­reer at the Lin­coln Cen­ter The­ater and who has di­rected sev­eral Santa Fe pro­duc­tions, is the Adobe Rose’s artis­tic di­rec­tor. She worked with McKenna to se­lect the in­au­gu­ral sea­son. Up­com­ing pro­duc­tions, with dates still to be de­ter­mined, are Cir­cle Mir­ror Trans­for­ma­tion by An­nie Baker; Lobby Hero by Ken­neth Lon­er­gan; and Rap­ture, Blis­ter, Burn by Gina Gion­friddo. The space will be avail­able for rental to the com­mu­nity for about half the weeks of the year. The the­ater seats 120 to 140 peo­ple, de­pend­ing on how it is ar­ranged. Adobe Rose pro­duc­tions will fea­ture lo­cal tal­ent on stage and be­hind the scenes; McKenna and Chapin are also bring­ing in tour­ing shows from around the coun­try. The Ab­so­lute Bright­ness of Leonard Pelkey, writ­ten and per­formed by James Le­cesne, premiered at Dixon Place in New York City in win­ter 2015; it opens March 3 at the Adobe Rose Theatre. The crit­i­cally revered one-man show tells a sur­pris­ingly up­lift­ing story about a four­teen-year-old boy who goes miss­ing in New Jersey. McKenna and Chapin are in­ter­ested in so­cially rel­e­vant the­ater that grabs an au­di­ence with im­me­di­acy. Though this will of­ten mean new work, there is noth­ing in the the­ater’s mis­sion that rules out older plays. “Some­thing could be four hun­dred years old and so­cially rel­e­vant,” McKenna said.

McKenna, who has ap­peared on stages in New York, Lon­don, and Los An­ge­les, de­cided to open a the­ater a year ago, as she was fig­ur­ing out what she wants to do af­ter her youngest son grad­u­ates from high school in 2016. Her hus­band, screen­writer Bruce McKenna, ve­toed a move to Eng­land and sug­gested open­ing an equity the­ater. “I’m an equity ac­tor, and there isn’t an equity the­ater in this town,” she said. “I found my way to Wendy’s act­ing class and thought she would be the right per­son to help me on the artis­tic side, and I started look­ing for a space.”

The McKen­nas put up the cap­i­tal for the ini­tial launch, but ticket sales and fundrais­ing will ul­ti­mately sup­port the the­ater. McKenna is in the process of gain­ing mem­ber­ship for the Adobe Rose in the Ac­tors Equity As­so­ci­a­tion by work­ing closely with of­fi­cials on such mat­ters as union rules around cast­ing re­quire­ments and fi­nan­cial trans­parency. “The path to mem­ber­ship for small the­aters is some­where be­tween two and five years, so it’s go­ing to take time,” she ex­plained. “As we put up shows and see the bud­getary re­quire­ments, I’ll have a bet­ter idea of what the houses are like and what kind of sup­port we get from the com­mu­nity. Right now, it’s a big ad­ven­ture.”

Sabina Dunn, Adam Har­vey, and Lynn Good­win

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