by Lynn on March 25, 2015

in The Passionate Playgoer

At Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace, Toronto, Ont.

Written by Donald Margulies
Directed by Jordan Merkur
Set and Props by David Wooton
Lighting by Karen Bayer
Costumes by Alex and Carmen Amini
Sound by Paul Humphrey
Starring: Carleigh Beverly
Kirstin Rae Hinton
Jason Jazrawy
Sam Rosenthal

A stylish production of an interesting play.

The Story
. Sarah is an American photojournalist who was seriously wounded in a roadside bombing in an unnamed war-torn country. Think Afghanistan. James, her boyfriend of eight and a half years, brings her home. He is a freelance journalist who suffered a breakdown when he was in the same war-torn country. He came home to the United States to recuperate but when he got the news that Sarah was severally injured he flew to her bedside and stayed there until she was well enough to come home.

When they had been home in the US (Brooklyn, New York) for a few days they are visited by Richard, a photo-editor at a magazine and Mandy, Richard’s new girlfriend, about half his age. Sarah and James think Richard is having midlife crisis. Richard feels that in his life, Mandy is the real thing and what he needs.

Sarah’s recuperation is slow. James is right there with her. There are shifts in their relationships. Truths are revealed.

The Production. Designer David Wootton has designed a terrific set for Time Stands Still. It’s Sarah and James’s apartment in Brooklyn. The furniture is mismatched, eclectic; full of meaningful souvenirs of past jobs in far off places. It’s an apartment where the occupants are rarely there and don’t have time to decorate with a theme or style.

Director Jordan Merkur directs with a clear eye to the details in these relationships. He has a keen sense of the world of the play and how each character has or has not been affected. James is devoted to Sarah. She is grateful to him for his help. Does she love him as he loves her? A mystery. But Merkur certainly establishes this mystery with clarity. As Sarah, Kirstin Rae Hinton has that impatient attitude of people who have seen hell and who have put things in perspective. She has no time for frivolous people. To her, initially, Mandy is frivolous. In time Sarah is more respectful as Mandy changes. As Sarah heals from her wounds, her desire to return to the war is palpable in Hinton’s performance.

As James, Jason Jazrawy is caring, attentive, up-beat and makes a tremendous effort to keep Sarah safe and loved. He knows something about what happened to Sarah but doesn’t say until it’s forced out of him. There is subtlety between Hinton and Jazrawy in establishing the twists and turns in Sarah and James’s relationship. Matters are not as smoothly established with Richard (Sam Rosenthal) and Mandy (Carleigh Beverly). Perhaps it’s because Carleigh Beverly is a young actress with only a few stage credits. In any case this relationship is not smoothly established. At one point Richard has to comfort Mandy and the embrace is one of the most awkward, uncomfortable moments I’ve seen on a stage in a long time, as if touching at all cost is to be avoided. Rosenthal does convey his concern for Sarah quite nicely. On the whole the point and tone of the play is well established.

Comment. Donald Margulies has written such an interesting play. He illuminates the horrors of war, certainly from the point of view of James. To Sarah, however, going back to that war zone, wherever it is, is like finding safe haven. She doesn’t have to deal with people. Her description to Mandy of how she takes her pictures is so telling. She looks through the viewfinder, lines up the shot and it’s as if “time stands still.” There is nothing but the picture and that says everything. It is the reverse of not seeing the forest for the trees. She sees the picture but not the people who create that picture. Only in one instance is she forced to see what she is doing, that she is interfering in a painfully personal moment for the sake of getting the picture. She is caught up short at that moment, but she doesn’t learn from it.

While Sarah says that taking her pictures to inform the world of the atrocities, that is not the case here. We don’t get the sense that these photos are commissioned for any news outlet. They certainly are not on the roster for Richard’s magazine. When she comes home and Richard wants to see the photos, they are all still on Sarah’s computer. It’s Richard who suggests a book. It never occurs to Sarah. It’s clear thinking James who questions who would buy a coffee table book of war pictures. So where is the urgency to tell the world about the atrocities? Sarah is deluding herself. She is escaping life and involvement by going back to a place where “time stands still”.

Sarah is the only one in the play who does not learn anything or change. James is profoundly changed by his war experiences and cannot go back there. He stays home and tries to write about the war as a freelancer, but finds difficulty in getting articles published. He finds another way of analyzing the political situation that is more successful. He wants to confirm his commitment to Sarah by marrying her. She agrees but then realizes it was a mistake. Mandy has changed from a naïve, silly young woman, to one who sees that the world is unfair and rolls with it. Richard has found his bliss with Mandy.

Time Stands Still—fascinating play. Dandy production. See it.

The TSS Collective Presents

Run: March 12-March 29, 2015
Cast: 4; 2 men, 2 women.
Running Time: 2 hours approx.

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