The title character in the Capital Stage production of “Luna Gale” is an unseen infant, whose gravitational presence is demonstrated again and again, as adults walk past the baby carrier, making goo-goo eyes at the little tyke strapped inside. You’ve probably experienced how a tiny baby can dominate a group of adults by just gazing and cooing.
Yes, everybody adores baby Luna, including her teenage parents, who have been experimenting with crystal meth. They are now required to meet regularly with a social worker – an extremely dedicated but seriously overworked social worker – who is in charge of custody arrangements for Baby Luna.
The play opens with one of these meetings, which does not begin well, because the young mom is so addled that she’s almost comatose.
Social worker: What’s going on?
Father: What do you mean?
Social worker: Well, you gave a urine sample when you came in. What’s it going to tell me??
Father: It’s negative. Totally and completely negative.
Social worker (not believing him): Ahh…
The social worker doesn’t believe the young dad, who has a checkered past. But he gamely presses ahead.
Father: The thing is this… Have you ever done meth?
Social worker: No…
Father: Okay. Well, if you’re not, y’know, totally tweaking out, then you’re crashing. So she’s crashed, and I’m just trying to maintain an alternative mode of not crashing.
Social worker: With what?
Social worker: Amp?
Father? It’s a high energy drink, it’s like Red Bull. (Social worker: Oh!) It’s totally legal.
Social worker: How many have you had?
Father: Today? (pause) Six…. Is that totally bad?
Social worker: You’re going to give yourself a heart attack!
Father: Well, it’s a chance that I’m going to have to take.
The complications include a meddlesome supervisor at the social services agency, and a religiously-observant grandma determined to take custody of Baby Luna. There’s also an undisclosed and undiscussed abusive relationship in the past, which suddenly comes to the light.
This tautly-staged production hinges on the world-weary social worker – skillfully played by veteran actress Amy Resnick — as she tries to strategize a clear path through this thicket of difficult personalities and complex relationships, trying to meet the letter of the law while rendering a decision reflecting a modicum of fairness: no easy task.
The story gets more absorbing with each new scene, as hidden details are gradually revealed. And the play’s ending – while not exactly “happy” — nonetheless provides a ray of hope that at least a few of these messed up characters may manage to achieve some stability and contentment in their chaotic lives.