“Time Stands Still” may have been a replacement for a musical in their line-up this year, but the Reston Community Players do full justice to it. From the phenomenally constructed and gorgeous set (in all honesty, one of the best I have seen this year anywhere) to the skilled acting, they have produced a solid show.
This is a thoughtful, fully-realized production that asks some uncomfortable questions…
The story concerns two partners—one a photojournalist and one a journalist—who cover breaking stories around the world, most notably war zones. Sarah Goodwin, the photojournalist, has been badly injured by an IED in Iraq and has been brought home from Germany by her partner, James Dodd. James had returned to the states several weeks earlier after a breakdown. During the course of several months, their lives, and the lives of their editor, Richard Ehrlich and his new girlfriend (and wife eventually) change radically. But first, there’s a lot of ground to cover.
It’s a strong script, but not particularly empathetic to the characters—there’s a coldness to it, in spite of the heat generated by the conflicts between the characters. Consequently, one feels the most compassion toward Mandy Bloom, Richard’s paramour, even though she is the “simplest” of the characters.
The show explores some big themes in a domestic setting—the lies we tell ourselves to get through, the denial (and in some cases, the acceptance) of uncomfortable truths, the fragility of the human ego, and acceptance of all parts of ourselves. The one character who doesn’t really grow is Sarah, yet she does perform a selfless act in the end.
None of these characters are bad in the sense that they are evil or seek to hurt others, but they all have issues (except for Mandy, in a way) that inform their lives in ways that they prefer not to reflect upon. Sarah’s enforced period of physical rehabilitation brings it all to a head.
As Sarah, Jane Steffen is angry, cranky and frightened—I have rarely seen a character so terrified of vulnerability. Greg Lang portrays James Dodd’s metamorphosis from a risk-taker to a not-risk-taker as the appropriately painful process it is. What he wants out of life changes, and he finally accepts it.
Oddly enough, it is Richard’s and Mandy’s journey that is the most affecting. She is simple in that she understands that she is young and doesn’t have a lot of life experience and has been thrown into the lion’s den, in a sense. But she is steadfast in her love for Richard and acknowledges, albeit briefly, that Richard being so close in age to her father gives her a sense of safety. Alex Sands brings to the character an honesty that is hard to resist. Richard (a dignified and torn Todd Huse ) is a man finally grown up and ready to settle down in his middle age, but he isn’t a caricature; he knows he’s been foolish in the past and accepts it.
The show also addresses (in a sideways manner) the issues of white privilege. These two talented journalists do risk their lives, but as James so ably dissects for Sarah, there is an unwholesome aspect to their addiction to “war- and misery-porn.” She consistently denies it but even her affair with their now-dead interpreter (after James had left the country) is tainted by her possibly being more into his victimhood rather than Tariq as a person. That accusation sets the beginning of the end for the two.
The set is gorgeous. Every inch of space is used well and the series of arched beams overhead give both a sense of otherness and of being trapped. Andy Regiec is the set designer and deserves full kudos for an impressive framing of the action. The set decoration by Kate Keifer is impeccable; even the bedspread hints at their travels.
Director Adam Konowe keeps the action moving tightly. The play is written by Donald Margulies.
This is a thoughtful, fully-realized production that asks some uncomfortable questions, and if it doesn’t answer them, then gives an in-depth look at the trade-offs people make in living their lives.
Advisory: Adult language.
Running Time: Approximately two hours with one 15-minute intermission.
“Time Stands Still” runs from March 1-16, at Reston Community Players, Reston Community Center, Reston, VA. For more information, please click here.