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Roberto (David Lollar), center, is desperate to convince Paulina and Gerardo Escobar (Mendy McMasters and Miguel Torres) that he is not the man Paulina thinks he is in "Death and the Maiden," playing now at The Empty Space.

Violence and loss are all-too familiar in recent headlines, with the future bringing tales of healing. Coming to terms with events beyond our control is at the heart of "Death and the Maiden," playing now at The Empty Space.

The drama, by playwright and author Ariel Dorfman, takes place in a fictional Latin American country, although it is said to be inspired by Chile's painful struggle for democracy.

Paulina Escobar, played by Mendy McMasters, remains haunted by her political imprisonment and rape by an unseen captor. When her husband, portrayed by Miguel Torres, brings home a stranded motorist (David Lollar), she is sure the stranger is the sadistic doctor who tortured her years before.

The show remains ambiguous about the facts, but the characters' pain is at the heart of "Maiden," as is the attempt to move past it, said director Maria-Tania Becerra.

"The play is indeed about healing," Becerra wrote in an email. "The playwright, Dorfman, introduces us to three different characters -- each of them trying to heal from this ordeal. How each person heals is varied -- as it is in our lives.

"We may not be able to relate to coming out of a political and emotional situation like these characters, but we try to heal from trauma in our own lives all the time. So we can in fact relate to these people trying to navigate though an emotional disarray."

Although this is not a Cal State Bakersfield event, Becerra, an assistant professor who teaches theater history, script analysis and dramatic literature, used some theater connections. McMasters also teaches acting at CSUB and Torres is a student.

The show, which opened last weekend, has received good word of mouth and "medium" attendance, said Becerra, who's aiming for packed houses for the remaining two weekends.

"I am so very proud of this play. I wish we had sold-out houses because this really is a great story. It sucks you in right away -- the play is beautifully written -- Dorfman is very poetic, and it will be a shame to miss it."