Time Stands Still – Is She Bearing Witness or an Adrenaline Junkie?
Sarah (Nancy Nagrant), an internationally known photographer, arrives home leg in a cast, arm in a sling, with face badly scratched, having been caught by a roadside bomb on assignment in Iraq. (Nagrant moves in credible sync with painful infirmity.) She’s been “collected” by longtime partner, James (John Long), a freelance journalist who had left for the states earlier in the throes of shellshock. “The eagle has landed.”
Ross DeGraw, Assol Abdullina, Nancy Nagrant
Concerned friend/editor Richard (Ross DeGraw) comes to visit. Instead of an intimate reunion, however, Sarah and James are additionally faced with Richard’s new, much younger, sweet, but decidedly simple girlfriend, Mandy (Assol Abdullina). An events planner, the girl has brought helium balloons that say “Get Well” and “Welcome Home.” “I’m into events too,” quips Sarah, “wars, famine, genocide.” You can almost hear an audible “ouch.”
Two of Sarah’s three cameras survived the explosion. Photos are harrowing. Richard suggests a book. James can write the text for Sarah’s chronicle – but can he do it without being affected by her secret? Looking over shoulders, Mandy is aghast. “Why didn’t you help them instead of taking a picture?! Sarah protests she was helping. “…otherwise who would know, who would care…?”
Nancy Nagrant, John Long, Ross DeGraw, Assol Abdullina
During the exchange, it’s clear the photographer can’t wait to get back where the action is. James is appalled. After eight and a half years, he was hoping her lengthy coma would bring Sarah to her senses; that they would finally stay put, marry, and have a family. She agrees to the ceremony, but…
This insightfully written, articulate play pits bearing witness against trying to actively help. Sarah could’ve volunteered for the Red Cross, but that’s not where her talent lies. Doesn’t someone have to bring atrocity to public attention? What about motivation? Is Sarah sacrificing her safety in order to remind people of moral imperative or is danger like a drug she’d have to secure elsewhere were she not a war correspondent? Like many in the situation, she feels most alive when challenging death.
The company is all very good. Each actor creates distinctive bearing, movement, and speech. Both couples silently communicate.
Director Jerry Heymann has a keen eye for subtle moments and nuanced timing. He invisibly brackets tension and sarcasm, utilizes watchfulness as often as gesture and approaches the piece without judgment. Small signals reveal – ie., when one of two bicycles leans against the wall instead of hanging.
Brian Dudkiewicz’s Apartment Set is appealingly personalized.
The only thing wrong with visuals is that, as manifest, Mandy’s swaddled baby is too small to be anything but a hospital preemie. (Props-Stephanie Gonzalez)
Like minded drama: David Hare’s 1978 play Plenty (opening in New York – 1982) centers on Susan Traherne, a former special agent in Nazi-occupied France who finds it impossible to adjust to boring, morally bankrupt, civilian life.
2013’s film 1000 Times Good Night stars Juliette Binoche as a highly lauded photographer felled by a Middle Eastern bomb, returning to a husband (and family) who will no longer endure her life being risked.
Time Stands Still premiered in February 2009 in Los Angeles. The 2010 Broadway production was nominated for three Tony Awards.
Photos by Hunter Canning
Opening: Nancy Nagrant and John Long
New Light Theater Project presents
Time Stands Still by Donald Margulies
Directed by Jerry Heymann
13th Street Repertory Company
50 West 13th Street
Through February 24, 2018
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