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Time Stands Still
Jun 7, 2013 - Jun 16, 2013
Time Stands Still
by Donald Marguiles (Pulitzer Prize for Dinner With Friends)
This production sponsored by West Bank
DATES: June 7 – 16, 2013 , calendar
From Pulitzer- Prize-winning playwright Donald Margulies comes a moving and often hilarious story of relationships, mid-life crisis and the ties of friendship. James and Sarah, a journalist and photographer, cope with changes in life and their relationship when Sarah’s injuries abroad force them to return home to New York. Praised by the New York Times as a powerful drama that “crackles with bright wit and intelligence,” this surprisingly funny play prompts poignant questions about responsibility – to ourselves, to our loved ones and to the world.
Sarah – Kristin Larson
James – John Graham
Richard – Tom Woldt
Mandy – Katelyn McBurney
Director – Brad Dell
Stage Manager – Ben Raanan
Set Design – Jay Jagim
Lighting Design – Jay Jagim
Costume Design – Mell Ziegenfuss
Makeup and Hair Design – Cindy Hummel
Properties – Ben Raanan
Theater review: StageWest’s ‘Time Stands Still’
9:58 AM, Jun 10, 2013 | by Michael Morain
Firefighters race toward disaster. Surgeons cut people open. Judges send folks to jail.
Some jobs require a certain emotional detachment that can make things tricky at home, where emotional connection is what it’s all about.
In Pulitzer-winner Donald Margulies’ sad but thoughtful play “Time Stands Still,” which StageWest presents through June 16, the jobs happen to be in journalism. And the journalists, who cover some of the toughest stories in the world, can’t seem to figure out their own.
The Iowa premiere relies on something of an all-star team of theater faculty from area colleges and universities, led by director Brad Dell (Iowa State) and the actors Kristin Larson (Grand View), John Graham (Drake) and Tom Woldt (who left Simpson for a new job at the University of South Dakota). The gifted younger actress Katelyn McBurney rounds out the four-member cast, whose talents merge into an intimate, intricate story of ambition and loss.
As it begins, a photographer named Sarah (Larson) and her partner James (Graham) have just come home from a hospital in Germany, where Sarah was recuperating after a roadside bomb in Iraq shattered her leg and tattooed her face with scars. They set down their luggage (in designer Jay Jagim’s hip, three-room apartment) but keep lugging around their emotional baggage, stuffing it with extra souvenirs of resentment and regret.
James, a reporter himself, can’t stop fussing over Sarah because he loves her, sure, but also because he feels a sense of survivor’s guilt. He suffered a breakdown in Iraq and returned to the United States right before her accident.
Neither person knows how to relax, and they’re not in the mood for company, which makes the arrival of their magazine’s photo editor, Richard (Woldt), and his chirpy new girlfriend, Mandy (McBurney), all the more awkward. The two mylar balloons Mandy gives Sarah – “Welcome Home” and “Get Well Soon” – only make things worse. The hardened photographer has little in common with the ditzy event planner, whose favorite word seems to be “Wow!” (On Broadway, Laura Linney played Sarah opposite Alicia Silverstone’s Mandy.)
But just when it seems Mandy’s head is filled with helium, she scores an important point: Joy matters. Life is too short to obsess over problems on the other side of the world, which, for the most part, are beyond any one person’s control.
The degree to which the others believe her drives the rest of the show. Richard accepts it – he’s happier than ever – and James is ready for a more ordinary routine.
“I don’t need to dodge bullets anymore to feel alive,” he tells Sarah. “I want to take our kids to Disney World and buy them all the crap they want.”
But Sarah can’t quite let go. She can’t forget what she’s seen or ignore the urge to help. It’s the job she was trained to do, and the invisible armor she’s built up to succeed professionally is too thick to shed in her personal life. She is trapped in her own expertise.
Fortunately, the actress who plays her has plenty of expertise, too. Larson’s cool restraint complements the more outward turmoil of her castmates, and her quiet expressions – by turns worried and withering – could tell much of the story even without the telltale scars. (Cindy Hummel, Tawana Garner and Alexis Solberg are in charge of the make-up.)
Graham is more animated, a jumpy puppy to Larson’s self-possessed cat. His affection is warm and sincere even though uglier feelings erupt later on, when his suspicions about her loyalty prove true.
Their tender but uneasy relationship contrasts with the mushy attraction between Woldt’s intelligent, affable Richard and McBurney’s Mandy, whose childlike flair for the obvious is endearing.
The script is a good one, and it lets the characters express their inner dilemmas in ways that seem natural. Director Dell builds an even better case with thoughtful blocking, artful lighting (Jagim again) and snippets of folksy blues that ease the transitions from one scene to the next. The combined effects make the characters seem like ordinary people, struggling with the same work-life challenges as those of us whose jobs don’t take us into war zones. Sometimes the battles break out at home.
It’s worth noting, too, that the story briefly picks up the old ethical debate about whether journalists who witness a crisis should intervene or just watch at arm’s length. It can be tough to just watch, which theater audiences here will understand better than most.