How relationships evolve and threaten to come apart is at the core of Donald Margulies’ 2010 Broadway play, “Time Stands Still.” Set in the world of war-zone journalism, it also examines the dilemma of objectively reporting atrocities versus becoming actively involved. South Stream Productions’ sensitive, well-acted staging offers an emotionally engaging, thought provoking evening.
Feisty photojournalist Sarah has come home to recuperate from severe injuries caused by an explosive device while working in Iraq. James, Sarah’s long-time boyfriend and fellow journalist, had been in Iraq with Sarah but left suddenly because he couldn’t take the carnage and risk anymore. Now he just wants an everyday life and a family, while Sarah can’t wait to get back to documenting global conflicts.
Things are further complicated by the guilt James feels about leaving Sarah alone in Iraq and by Sarah’s deep sorrow over the death of her interpreter-guide in the same explosion.
James and Sarah’s friend and magazine editor, Richard, brings over his new, much younger girlfriend, Mandy, who makes an uncomfortable fit among them with her inexperienced, sometimes horrified reactions to their type of work. But her comments bring out mounting tensions between James and Sarah, forcing crucial decisions about their lives together.
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Margulies writes three-dimensional characters that interact with humor and affection but also anger and hurt. Director Andy Hayworth astutely balances these, allowing the actors time for proper reactions, and adds realism with overlapping dialogue. He deftly orchestrates the ever-changing dynamics, often within a single exchange.
Brook North and Olivia Griego create a likable, believable couple in James and Sarah, making us care about what happens to them. North easily projects James’ loving but overly protective feelings for Sarah and his increasing concern about her addictive need for danger and risk. Griego masterfully lobs Sarah’s deadpan, biting witticisms while skillfully indicating Sarah’s inability to accept unexciting normalcy.
John Honeycutt’s Richard has winning warmth and admirable self-awareness of what the relationship with Mandy may look like. But Richard’s affection for Mandy is genuine, despite the awkward moments and embarrassed silences she causes. Katie Barrett plays Mandy’s naivety without caricature, gradually establishing her well-meaning, uncomplicated spirit underneath. Barrett’s breathy chattering is right for the role but it is often too quickly and quietly delivered.
Todd Houseknecht’s serviceable apartment set and appropriate lighting provide the backdrop for this timely drama about what makes people happy in life and love and how those two halves can be in conflict.
If you go
What: “Time Stands Still” presented by South Stream Productions
Where: Sonorous Road Theatre, 209 Oberlin Road, Raleigh
When: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 7-9 and 14-16; 2 p.m. Jan. 10, 17.
Tickets: $14 (Jan. 7 only), $18 (students/seniors $16), plus fees.
Info: 919-803-3798 or southstreamproductions.blogspot.com