As long as there has been photography, war photographers have given the world a voyeuristic look at otherwise-unseen tragedies. In TIME STANDS STILL, Delaware Theatre Company’s collaboration with the Act II Playhouse in Ambler, PA, the tables are turned, with a voyeuristic look at moments in time in the life of a photojournalist recovering from a devastating injury in Iraq.
Under Bud Martin’s direction, TIME STANDS STILL feels less like a play and more like secret eavesdropping in a real home (which happens to be an amazing loft in Brooklyn — more on that later). In fact, a big reason Martin, who’s based at the Act II, chose the DTC for its first regional post-Broadway premiere was because of its acoustics, which allow the actors to perform in a subtle, realistic way. The effect is almost disconcerting at first — I really did feel like I was watching people in the privacy of their home.
Of course, to pull this off, the acting has to be stellar. There are only four characters in TIME STANDS STILL: Photojournalist Sarah, played by Susan McKey; Sarah’s longtime companion, freelance journalist James, played by Kevin Kelly; their friend and photo editor Richard, played by Bruce Graham; and Richard’s young girlfriend Mandy, played by Megan McDermott. All of them were engaging, intense and real.
The characters live an existence most of us probably can’t fully relate to, yet they’re all incredibly relatable. Only Mandy, the outsider of the group, lives a life fully removed from death and destruction. She comes off as the least serious, maybe even frivolous, but she’s the one who adds perspective to to the lives of these hardened souls.
Part of what makes the play feel so intimate is the incredible stage set, designed by Dirk Durossette. The one-room loft apartment feels real, from the running water to the smell of coffee brewing. The detail is astounding, from the kitchenware and neatly organized storage space to raindrops falling outside the windows and the old horror movie on TV. The theater melts away, and you’re there.
The story itself, though not without humor, is a tragedy of sorts. Not at the level of the tragedies Sarah and James cover in the Middle East, but tragic all the same. The play is not a heavy-handed downer, though — you’ll leave thinking about the people, not politics. Considering the subject matter, that’s an impressive feat.
TIME STANDS STILL
Written by Donald Marguiles
Directed by Bud Martin
January 18 – February 5, 2012
Delaware Theatre Company, in association with Act II Playhouse
200 Water Street
Wilmington, DE 19801