Time Stands Still -- Multilayered and Fascinating

By Karen Isaacs

TheaterWorks is presenting a beautifully directed and nuanced production of the multilayered play Time Stands Still through Sept. 15.

This play by Connecticut resident Donald Magulies, New Haven resident and Yale professor, was nominated for the Pulitzer in 2010. It tells the story of two couples, James and Sarah and Richard and Mandy, but it is much more than a play about relationships.

The central character is Sarah, beautifully played by Erika Rolfsrud. Sarah is a photojournalist who travels the world to the scenes of the latest wars, famine, atrocities. She is usually joined in her travels by her longtime partner, James, a free-lance journalist. The play opens in their Williamsburg, Brooklyn apartment in 2009, where Sarah arrives home, injured from a car bomb in Iraq that killed her "fixer" -- the local who arranges interviews, plans travel and does much more. James had not been in Iraq then; he had returned home in shell shock after witnessing a particular grisly scene.

Soon after their return, their good friend Richard, a photo editor on a magazine, arrives with his new girl friend, the much younger and more seemingly shallow Mandy in tow. Richard is older but is entranced with Mandy, who is viewed, as Sarah makes perfectly clear, as a bubblehead.

I don't want to give too much away of the plot; but let's say that Sarah and James' relationship is redefined as both find that the very close brush with death forces them to question what they really want.

What adds dimension to what could be a play only about relationships, is the added debates about what James and Sarah do: report and photograph the misery of others.

Mandy wonders how they can stand by and just watch rather than taking action. Sarah explains how watching, photographing and reporting is a way of standing witness and exposing what is going on. Yet is there more to it?

Rob Ruggiero has done his usual brilliant directing job and he has four wonderful performers to work with. As Sarah, Erika Rolfsrud bring out both the prickly quality of the character but also the underlying psychology while Tim Altmeyer as James shows us the conflicted and scared man. Matthew Boston as their older friend Richard provides the contrast as a man who has recognized who he is and what he wants, and Liz Holtan as Mandy makes the growth of maturity in this character both clear and reasonable.

Particular praise has to be given to special make up designer Joe Rossi for showing us Sarah's external scars and set designer Luke Hegel-Cantarella for making meaningful use of every square inch of the stage.

Time Stands Still is one of those riveting plays that you keep thinking about and finding new ways of looking at. The intimate stage at TheaterWorks that puts the audience closer to the actors makes it even more compelling. This is a play you should see.


Time Stands StillsĀ  is at TheaterWorks Hartford, 233 Pearl St. in downtown Hartford, through Sept. 15. For tickets and information call 860-527-7838 or online at theaterworkshartford.org.

This review appears in Shore Publishing Community Newspapers August 7,, 2013 and online at Zip06.com.

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