You can take the woman out of the war, but you can’t take the war out of the woman.
That is abundantly clear in Donald Margulies’ “Time Stands Still,” a stellar production on stage at Live Theatre Workshop.
Sarah is a photographer who has been injured while covering war in the Middle East. Her boyfriend, James, has flown to Germany to take her home to Brooklyn. He was a journalist covering the war but left before she did after he had a nervous breakdown. The guilt of not being there with her weighs him down. She struggles with who she is; he struggles with who he wants her to be.
What makes this Eva Tessler-directed piece so riveting — besides Margulies’ fine-tuned script — is the actors who inhabit these characters so fully.
Carley Elizabeth Preston’s Sarah is deeply conflicted — this wildly independent woman needs help while she recovers. Walking up stairs is difficult, thanks to a leg injury. An arm injury means she can barely pour herself a drink. Taking a jacket off is a major struggle. Her rage and frustration at not being able to do her job is palpable. Preston allowed the character’s inner life to inform her portrayal, and that translated to a deeply moving performance.
Christopher Younggren is equally impressive as James. The character is tightly wound and almost paralyzed with guilt. Writing, which generally comes easily to him, is suddenly hard. His temper is quick. But he also has a tender side and wants to marry Sarah and have children. It’s almost as though that would redeem him, make the world right.
An old friend and editor, Richard (Glen Coffman), comes calling to see how Sarah is. He brings with him his much younger girlfriend Mandy (Emily Gates), who clearly has no handle on depth or tact. James and Sarah have little use for her, mocking Richard to his face and making snide remarks to her. Poor Mandy — she doesn’t quite get she’s being insulted.
Coffman does some of the best stage work we’ve seen from him, creating a fully realized character. Gates made sure we knew that while Mandy may seem like a ditz, she was deeply human.
“Time Stands Still” is a must-see.