“Time Stands Still” at TheaterWorks Hartford

By Tom Nissley

Fighting the chaos within...

I knew a girl, when I was young, who had her own coat on before I could hold it for her, and closed the car door abruptly before I could help her in. She was...independent -- to a point beyond simple conventions of connection. I saw her again a few nights ago, in TheaterWorks‘ amazing production of Donald Marguiles’ “Time Stands Still.” Erika Rolfsrud plays Sarah, the wounded and thoroughly independent journalist who cannot stand her residual pain and cannot fathom how to make a long-standing relationship with James (Tim Altmeyer) into one that will respect his vulnerability and her sense of personal self. Altmeyer is as open as can be, in his caring and sharing. He sits with legs spread and arms wide, in a wonderfully casual posture, whether with Sarah, or Richard (Matthew Boston) -- Sarah’s one-time partner and still a significant connection in the publishing world for both Sarah and James. Richard has recently settled with Mandy (Liz Holtan), also a vulnerable lady, who never bothered with some of the in-depth facets known to the others.

And so this comedy of manners, beautifully directed by Rob Ruggerio, plays itself out. Four characters, searching for how they may be connected one to the other, within a time capsule that is facilitated only by Sarah’s having barely survived an explosion while working with her camera in a foreign war zone. While she heals, she cannot run off to other foreign war zones, and until she heals James will stay by her side. Richard’s girl-toy is newly pregnant, which changes their relationship into what Mandy sees as clearly normal in spite of the difference in their ages and education.

So we have many dimensions of loyalty and connection and motivation and competition. Richard is the associate editor of a meaningful magazine. Can he help Sarah publish a book? Or James publish an article? Mandy’s search for meaning in her career as an event planner is as full of depth for her as Sarah’s commitment to pure focus with her camera. Their values seem worlds apart but they do impact each other. And James, who knows and has fled from the foreign zone, quietly discovers that having a big TV and conventional romance is important for him, but may not be for Sarah.

Is life -- war -- relations -- love -- something that can be observed dispassionately and published in a book? Or does that kind of objectivity have to be broken through for the good life to proceed? This heavy set of questions is handsomely poised in Marguiles’ play, and the no-easy-answers are poised with it. You will likely reflect on your own history of relationships as you absorb those on stage.

The set (Luke Canterella) shows every corner of a great loft apartment somewhere in New York. It is handsomely and creatively lit (John Lasiter), with full support from the sound board (Brian “Fitz” Patton). Harry Nadal’s costumes are spot on. A great production. Tuesday through weekends until September 15.

Tickets and info are at www.theaterworkshartford.org or telephone 203-527-7838.

Tom Nissley for the Ridgelea Reports on theatre. August 19, 2013

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