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The trauma of war: Damaged psyches on stage

SANTA FE, N.M. — Veteran journalists, home from the battle, pick up the pieces of their love and their lives while examining their own morality in the latest production at the Adobe Rose Theatre.

Donald Margulies’ “Time Stands Still” presents photographer Sarah and newswriter James – frightened and frightening – as they navigate the trauma resulting from their work covering the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The 2009 drama with a streak of dark humor from the Pulitzer Prize for Drama winner Margulies is in its first weekend and continues through June 4.

The play honors the contributions of reporters and photographers during wartime, said Maureen Joyce McKenna, who plays Sarah. Her character, like many real-life journalists, faces possible death, physical injury and mental damage while covering war and conflict, and the possibility of returning with post-traumatic stress disorder.

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And yet, without the desire on the part of reporters and editors to get the real story to the public, the only point of view that remains is straight from the people making the decisions – the policymakers. Public opinion requires unbiased honesty, McKenna said.

“The media is under attack and we have to support and encourage them,” said McKenna, who is also founder of the Adobe Rose.

From left, Maureen Joyce McKenna, David Sinkus and Kevin Kilner rehearse "Time Stands Still, a play by Pulitzer Prize winner Donald Margulies, opening this weekend at the Adobe Rose Theatre

From left, Maureen Joyce McKenna, David Sinkus and Kevin Kilner rehearse “Time Stands Still, a play by Pulitzer Prize winner Donald Margulies, opening this weekend at the Adobe Rose Theatre. ( Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

On the stage with Sarah for much of the play is James, played by Kevin Kilner, a familiar face from television (“House of Cards”) and film. His stage work includes a role in another of Margulies’ plays “Dinner with Friends,” for which the playwright received his Pulitzer Prize.

“I love Donald’s writing. I felt like it was important to do this play, and it’s like climbing a Himalayan mountain, you ‘have to do it,’ ” Kilner said.

His character has had a breakdown, while photographer Sarah was injured by a roadside bomb.

Kilner and McKenna worked together years ago, and he welcomed a chance to come to northern New Mexico to work with her and her new theater, he said.

In the early 2000s, he appeared in “The Cherry Orchard” with Marsha Mason at the Lensic.

Catherine Lynch is the director of "Time Stands Still" at the Adobe Rose Theatre in Santa Fe

Catherine Lynch is the director of “Time Stands Still” at the Adobe Rose Theatre in Santa Fe. ( Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Director Catherine Lynch said the play has the potential to take younger adults out of their iPhone-framed reality, offering a chance to get in touch with emotions and situations they may be distanced from.

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Two other characters in the play, Richard, a photo editor, and his much younger girlfriend, Mandy, help Sarah and James explore the impact of their work on both themselves and their audience. Mandy is played by Alexandra Renzo and Richard is played by David Sinkus.

Mandy’s naive questions bring out more than expected.

Sarah describes the emotional distance between a photographer and her subjects, when “time stands still.” Saying that out loud to the younger woman, however, reveals more than she would have guessed.

McKenna, whose theater in the millennial-magnet Siler Road area is 16 months old and counting, offers a discount to those young adults who may be in the neighborhood. The theater sells $5 tickets for Thursday night performances for those under 25.

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