Front Row Center – December 2017

Front Row Center

By Michael Warren

Time Stands Still
By Donald Margulies
Directed by David Goldman


front rowThis well-crafted play is about the loving and sometimes stormy relationship between “Sarah Goodwin” who is a war-zone photographer, and “James Dodd” who is a writer specializing in conflict and disaster areas. When the play opens, Sarah is on crutches and her face is scarred by shrapnel. She has been sent home in James’ care after several weeks in hospital having been almost killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq. James fusses over her, and we understand that he is tormented by guilt because he left her alone in Iraq after he had a nervous breakdown over there, and he still suffers from PTSD. The scars of war are not all visible.

Later we meet “Richard Ehrlich” who is a photo editor in New York, and a very good friend to Sarah and James. In tow he brings his new and very young girl-friend “Mandy Bloom” who is sort of sweet and sort of ditsy. The actors are all amazingly good in their various roles. I can pay no higher compliment than to say that I was so engrossed in the play that I totally forgot that these were actors and we were in a theater.

Much credit must go to first-time director David Goldman who brought out the best in four first-time actors on the LLT stage. Carolyn Cothran was strong and determined as Sarah, while Greg Custer brought out the emotional frailty of James. During the play we begin to see what attracts them to each other, and also what drives them apart. Sarah is hooked on the adrenaline of the blood and guts of war, and is dedicated to showing it to the world. Greg admires her, but he also needs to find some peace in a normal family life. Ultimately these contradictions end their marriage in a touching final scene.

Richard is twenty years older than Mandy, and Don Beaudreault expresses his amused embarrassment and also his love for her. She brings him happiness. And Johanna Labadie is excellent as young Mandy. I particularly appreciated the scene in which she questions the morality of taking photos of strangers dying, and doing nothing to help them. What kind of person are you, if all you are is a camera? Donald Margulies has given us a powerful play that doesn’t pretend to answer such questions; instead it focuses on two people who are struggling to make meaning of their lives. The dialogue is natural – this is the way that people talk.

At the opening of the play, there were scenes of Iraq on a back-projector screen. Initially they were happy scenes of normal life, at home or in the marketplace. Gradually the scenes deteriorated as war came to the area, and at the end we saw destruction, violence and death. These scenes were extremely effective – congratulations to David Goldman and to J.E. Jack for producing the video. Win McIntosh was as always an efficient Stage Manager, and Beryl Dorscht was her Assistant. Thanks to all who worked backstage to make this play such a success. It was a very good play, well written, well directed and very well acted. Next up is Calendar Girls which should be fun – it opens on December 8.

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