Those who have not experienced the horrors of war firsthand can never really understand the devastating, lifelong effects it has on those who survive to come home to pick up the pieces. While we may be at least a bit more aware of the emotional and physical scars soldiers have, we may forget that those who are reporters and photographers embedded in war zones also never fully recover.
Donald Margulies’ moving play, Time Stands Still, tells the story of Sarah Goodwin (played by Cheryl Skafte), a photojournalist and James Dodd (played by John Pokrzywinski), a foreign correspondent, who return from covering the war in Iraq and are trying to pick up the pieces to start life over and to carve out a normal life together.
Sarah was injured by a roadside bomb and is recovering from both her physical and emotional wounds. James feels immense guilt for having left Sarah in Iraq when he suffered a breakdown and had to come home to the U.S. As the play begins, James has just brought Sarah home from a hospital in Germany where she had been recuperating.
James and Sarah are trying to decide whether they should return to the combat zone or if they should pursue their careers in the U.S., impacting whether they can stay together depending on the choices each of them makes.
They are contrasted as a couple with Richard Ehrlich (played by Michael Kraklio), a photo editor and friend, and his shallow and much younger girlfriend, Mandy Bloom (played by KT Magnolia).
As theater critic Charles Isherwood wrote in the New York Times about the 2010 Broadway production:
“The new play explores the relationship between two couples at a crucial juncture in their lives, when their desire to move forward clashes with the instinct to stay comfortably — or even uncomfortably — in place.”
Julie Ahasay who has directed several Playhouse shows in past seasons including Annapurna, Vanya & Sonya & Masha & Spike, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Other Desert Cities, is directing this production.
Ahasay says about the power of the Time Stands Still script, “It is witty, intelligent deep and especially timely, featuring four beautifully written characters. It asks the actors and the audience to examine some difficult questions about relationships, happiness and how best to live in a world torn by conflict and suffering.”
The play tackles many other thorny themes including: is it the responsibility of journalists just to observe and report photographically and editorially or to get involved and help when they can?
Sarah describes her life through the lens of her camera in a line that evokes the play’s title: “When I look through that little rectangle … Time stops. It just … All the noise around me … Everything cuts out. And all I see … is the picture.”
Ahasay adds, “I love that this play explores big ideas and themes through the intimate lens of a single relationship. Donald Margulies manages to tell a story that looks at current events and a profession under fire, at the same time he tells us a love story.”
This article was written by Sheryl Jensen and first appeared in the Duluth Playhouse newsletter, The Callboard, in May 2017 (Volume 58, Issue #5).
What: Time Stands Still
Where: The Duluth Playhouse (506 W. Michigan Street)
When: Performing one more weekend, June 8-11, 2017
Show Times: Thursday-Saturday @ 7:30pm, Sunday @ 2pm
Tickets: Adults – $30, Students – $22, Groups (15+) – $25
Purchase: Online at duluthplayhouse.org, by calling 218.733.7555, or stopping by in person during regular business hours (9am-5pm, M-F)