Theater review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray
Larry Murray: Time Stands Still uses the tragedy of war to rev up its engine, but it is really more about the effect these conflicts have on the lives of journalists and photographers who cover them than anything else. In fact, in this Donald Margulies play, the journalist James (Jason Guy) recounts an evening spent in the theater listening to a series of monologues about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mercifully, this play avoids such lectures. Theater-goers – presumably like the ones at the opening night of this play at the Oldcastle Theatre Company in Bennington – don’t need to be lectured about these wars, they likely read The Times and listen to NPR. Time Stands Still is actually about more important things: families and the effect covering war for a living has on them.
Gail M. Burns: It’s no surprise this play was nominated for the Tony for Best Play when it opened in New York in 2010. Margulies already had a Pulitzer Prize and another Pulitzer nomination under his belt. His dialogue is absolutely natural and easily builds character and story while it addresses fascinating issues of the necessity and morality of observing and recording atrocities.
Larry: Two of the things I really love about productions at the Oldcastle Theatre Company is the panoramic sweep of the stage and the comfortable seating they offer their ticket buyers. The set design by Carl Sprague was a detailed feast for the eyes, too. Sprague, along with props person Jenny Morgan had a field day. Waiting for the show to begin I did a visual scavenger hunt and noted such tells as a 1940s fan, a 1960s lamp and a neglected Frida Kahlo poster casually sitting on the floor of a nook. These were clear indicators that whoever is the owner of the loft – that only became clear once the play began – was not some tacky WalMart shopper, but had a long view, and a very developed sense of history. With the inspired lighting design by David Groupé, which suggested large loft windows everywhere, and historic projections of war during scene changes, the atmosphere was just perfect for the complex story as it unfolded over two years’ time.
Gail: The set is almost larger than the seating area, and Sprague cleverly opened the space to incorporate the actual stairs to the basement into the set stage right. Even so, the Brooklyn loft is a prison mentally and physically for Sarah (Marianna Bassham), an award-winning photojournalist who has spent her entire post-college career on the front lines of war and genocide around the globe. At the same time the space is a home and safe-haven for her long-time boyfriend and colleague James, who has followed a similar career path as a journalist. The couple is now in their early forties and it is now or never for them to start a family.