“Time Stands Still” at TheatreWorks
By Tom Holehan
Only a limited number of performances remain for TheaterWorks’ compelling production of “Time Stands Still”. The Connecticut premiere of New Haven playwright Donald Margulies’ fine contemporary play continues through this weekend in Hartford. In what has been a very good year at TheaterWorks, this final production of the season has much to recommend.
Smartly directed by Rob Ruggiero, “Time Stands Still” begins with the homecoming of James and Sarah (Tim Altmeyer and Erika Rolfsrud) to their Brooklyn apartment. The couple are photojournalists who have been covering the ongoing strife in the Middle East until Sarah is seriously injured. They are welcomed home by their close friend and editor, Richard (Matthew Boston) and his new trophy girlfriend Mandy (Liz Holtan, stealing scenes with abandon). The play raises serious questions about the ethics of correspondents and photographers during wartime but is even better at exploring the small but important details of what makes a relationship and the unsaid conversations between people very much in love who hope to stay that way.
Like his Pulitzer Prize winning “Dinner with Friends”, Margulies examines with truth and humor the ties that bind couples together and what marriage really means. Sarah is a self-proclaimed “thrill junkie” who has for years put her life on the line without thinking twice about the consequences. James feels it’s time for both of them to start living, get married and have a “real life”. Margulies’ wonderfully humane play looks at many sides of a complex relationship, at people who think they know each other until they really don’t.
The quartet of actors assembled at TheaterWorks are an impressive foursome and Ruggiero’s direction is immediate and involving. Lines tumble over one another and arguments escalate so convincingly and with such personal insight, that the intimate quarters at TheaterWorks often seem just too close for comfort. Altmeyer’s boyish James is immensely touching as a man who has seen enough of the world and now wants nothing more than some normalcy in his life. Rolfsrud is marvelous at projecting cynicism and she wears her intelligence and conviction as protective armor. She is less convincing, however, when called upon to be vulnerable. Her big break-down scene in the play, when she remembers a horrific incident overseas, is technically proficient but the tears seem manufactured and the emotions more surface than actually felt. In supporting roles Boston is supportive and practical as the bottom-line editor and Holtan is hilarious as his naive but sincere girlfriend. Margulies is wise enough to know that for a drama this serious, you need comic relief that doesn’t necessarily come off that way. Holtan delivers the goods effortlessly.
Luke Hegel-Cantarella’s lived-in apartment setting offers a panoramic view of Brooklyn which, in the right light, resembles war-torn Fallujah. Special mention should also go to Joe Rossi whose makeup design for Sarah’s facial injuries is first-rate. Theatregoers will want to visit the timely gallery exhibit upstairs from the theatre which features some iconic wartime photos. It adds immeasurably to the experience of watching this solid production of one of Donald Margulies’ best plays.
“Time Stands Still” continues at TheaterWorks in Hartford through September 15. For further information or ticket reservations, call the theatre box office at 860.527.7838 or visit: www.theaterworkshartford.org.
Tom Holehan is one of the original founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: firstname.lastname@example.org. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.