By Madelyn Olsen
Rebecca Gilman’s “Luna Gale” premiered on Jan. 18 at the Goodman Theatre. This masterfully crafted play follows a social worker and a unique case concerning baby Luna Gale, her parents and grandmother.
The play opens up in an emergency room waiting area where a sick baby Luna Gale’s meth-addicted parents, Karlie and Peter, are waiting and are introduced to social worker Caroline. Despite their drug problems, Caroline has a gut feeling that they are good parents and clearly states that reunification is the end goal.
However, Karlie’s mother, Cindy, has anything but faith in her daughter, telling Caroline in an interview that would determine whether or not Luna can live in Cindy’s home for the time being, that Luna is safer with her.
The story is a struggle between Cindy and Karlie, Karlie and her addiction, Caroline and her boss and Peter and this situation.
Outside of these lead characters are supporting characters, just as influential to the outcome: Pastor Jay, who rallies for Cindy to get custody; Cliff, Caroline’s recently appointed bureaucratic boss; and Lourdes, a newly emancipated ward starting college, who was previously one of Caroline’s cases.
In an interview with the Torch, Melissa Duprey, who plays Lourdes, had this to say about her character: “Lourdes represents a very small demographic of youth that actually comes out of the end of the foster care system on a positive note. But she was also written so that we can see a more vulnerable side of Caroline, the lead. … I like that Lourdes isn’t afraid to ask the tougher questions with Caroline.”
Duprey described the process of going from herself to Lourdes.
“Everyone has a different process,” she said. “Since I have asthma and breathing is so important for projection, sustaining thoughts and overall sense of believability, I like to wake up early and do Bikram Yoga. It opens up my airways and allows for effective use of breath.”
Duprey explained that she enjoys identifying and connecting with characters she plays, but she had little in common with Lourdes, aside from race and class.
“We know she is Latina but are not sure of the nationality,” she said. “We know she comes from a different socio-economic standing from any other character, to which I was able to identify. I also believe she had a drive to continue her education, even if it was pushed by her social worker.”
Duprey put herself through college and said she was able to identify with that aspect of the character.
“Curiously, when I was being fitted for potential costume pieces for the second act, I found that the designer’s choices were very similar to my styles and tastes in clothes,” Duprey said. “Did that mean I choose to express myself in style that society might interpret as destructive, wild and even dangerous? I thought that was interesting… and I’m still processing that now as we run the play…”
Duprey added that her favorite scene is when Caroline confronts Cliff about her handling of the case and unveils both parties’ biases. She said the audience has an audible and physical response to the scene each night.
“Since this is a world premier, I had the opportunity and privilege of debuting the character for the first time,” she said. “What distinguishes me is how I developed this character with the playwright right there in the room with us everyday. I was able to ask questions, and she was able to guide me to a character that would best lend itself for the story.”
“Luna Gale” is an onion, constantly revealing more and more layers of the characters, as well as their story lines. Gilman has created a complex situation containing colorful characters portrayed brilliantly by their actors.
It is rare that a piece can so effortlessly combine religion, humor and the realities of the current economic situation.
Audiences will find themselves rooting for Caroline, who with 25 years of experience under her belt, is battling her boss, budget cuts and striving to follow her gut to make sense of the unusual case of Luna Gale.
It is the multi-layered plot and complex characters that allow the actors and actresses to bring the story to life in such a real and believable way.
“Luna Gale” is a riveting tale that explores the intricacies of the processes of social work and the people who work within and through it.
This beautifully cast and crafted show is a must-see and will be playing until Feb. 23 at the Goodman Theatre.