filmsthat were necessary to begin the plot and motivate the characters but wereessentially irrelevant. It may be harsh to refer to a baby as a MacGuffin, butthe title character in Luna Gale, running through October 27 at Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater, is justthat.

She’s the newborn of meth-addictedparents Karlie (Miranda Jane Williams) and Peter (Zane Walters). After bringingtheir baby into an emergency room, they’re met by Caroline (Liz Jahren), asocial worker who informs them the baby will be taken out of their custodywhile they receive treatment for their addiction. Faced with the choice ofplacing the infant in foster care or with Karlie’s mother Cindy (GinaAlvarado), Caroline recommends placement with the child’s grandmother. It’s adecision she soon regrets.

Cindy, an evangelical Christian, seeksto gain full custody of the child with the support of her influential pastor(James Pelican). Caroline thinks the mother’s move will be devastating to herdaughter’s recovery, but Cindy thinks Karlie’s a lost cause. She wants to savethe child (in more ways than one.)

Overworked and out of time as her tight-lacedboss (John Browning) supports Cindy’s request, Caroline devises a plan to stallthe custody hearing. Will this agnostic sell her soul to save three others?

Playwright Rebecca Gilman has written adevastating look at the social services world. Underfunded and frequentlyunavailable, our nation talks a good game when it comes to the treatment ofdamaged individuals but often fails to deliver.

Director Jessica Litwak brings astylish directorial approach to the material that, while visually interesting,detracts from the text. The show opensand closes with movement pieces and when cast members are not in a scene,they’re dressed in lab coats and act as shelves, flag poles, etc. Rather thanabsorb what’s being said, one ponders why there’s an arm sticking out of therefrigerator holding a banana.

When they’re not scenery, the cast isacting the hell out of the script. Liz Jahren gives a towering performance as thesocial worker exhaustively swimming against the tide of an entrenchedbureaucracy. Williams and Walters are quite effective as the troubled parents. Pelicangives an interestingly restrained performance as the church leader.

Not as depressing as it sounds, Luna Gale is atribute to all those fighting the good fight – professionally and personally.There’s still hope.

‘Luna Gale’ runs through October 27 at Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma. Fridayand Saturday evening performances are at 7:30pm; the Sunday matinee is at 2pm.

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