Six weeks after being injured in a roadside bomb attack in Iraq, photojournalist Sarah returns to the Brooklyn loft she shares with her longtime boyfriend, James. She’s on crutches, her arm is in a sling, months of physical therapy lay ahead—and all she’s concerned about is how soon she can get back to working in a dangerous, war-torn region.
What pushes Sarah to put her life on the line for photographs? It is journalistic drive? Thrill seeking? Survivor’s guilt? All these motivations are explored in Pulitzer-prize winning playwright Donald Margulies’s Time Stands Still.
Hampton Theatre Company presents the Tony-nominated play this month at Quogue Community Hall, directed by Sarah Hunnewell. All four cast members are seasoned actors, but newcomers to HTC.
Time Stands Still premiered in 2009 in Los Angeles, and a 2010 production on Broadway earned itself a Tony nod for Best New Play and Laura Linney a nomination for Best Performance by a Leading Actress.
This production’s lead, Sandy York, has previous experience in the challenging role of Sarah, back in 2012 with Cape May Stage in New Jersey. Her familiarity with the character shines through in her performance, as Sarah’s emotional walls break down. Sarah feels deeply, but far be it from her to admit any vulnerability, or ask for any help as she limps around the apartment.
While Sarah is eager to get back in the game, James, a freelance journalist who often accompanied Sarah to document famine and conflict, is content to take fluff assignments and work on his book. He pleas with Sarah to enjoy domestic tranquility for once in her life.
Played by John Carlin, James is the doting boyfriend. He waits diligently on his injured partner primarily because he loves her, but also because of his guilt that he was no longer in Iraq when the bombing happened—he left the country after an earlier traumatic incident. Carlin excels in the role, delivering laughs, as well as eliciting the audience’s sympathy when rocked by revelations.
The relationship between these two characters would be enough to carry an entire play, but another couple is introduced, heightening the conflict. Photo editor Richard [John L. Payne] visits Sarah upon her return to Brooklyn, and brings his new, much younger new flame, Mandy [Kate Kenney].
The naive Mandy, an event planner, is a foil to Sarah. While Mandy is not bright or self aware enough to know when she is making insensitive remarks, Sarah know exactly what she is saying, and says it anyway. Richard finds Mandy refreshingly uncomplicated. Sarah finds her vapid.
Mandy, who lacks the cynicism of the middle-aged journalists around her, presents the opportunity for the others to make the argument for the importance of what they do and for why documenting suffering can be more effective at stopping it than intervening.
Picking on Mandy delivers plenty of laughs, and there is more humor to be found in Time Stands Still. But it is the drama that is enrapturing.
Richard often tries to quell conflict or uncomfortable discussions. Sarah, James and Mandy are predisposed to speak their minds and defend what they believe in—leading to butting heads.
The story unfolds in two acts, with scenes set months apart, but all in the same Williamsburg apartment—an impressive set designed by Sean Marbury. The setting may be small, but the characters will take you to the front lines.
Time Stands Still continues Thursday and Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. though January 25. Tickets are $25 per adult, $23 per senior and $10 per student with ID. Visit hamptontheatre.org or call 631-653-8955. Quogue Community Hall, 125 Jessup Avenue, Quogue.