Time Stands Still
As the play opens, James has just brought Sarah back to his apartment after a few weeks of treatment in a German hospital. She is still is rough shape, with a mangled leg and facial wounds. James is suffering from survivor's guilt. He blames himself for leaving Sarah in danger when he had his breakdown.
James seeks a safe life after nine years of covering conflict. He asks Sarah to marry him, yet he's not seeking intimacy so much as a companion in his withdrawal from a life of danger and horror. Sarah is damaged physically and emotionally, from Iraq as well as a difficult childhood, and she needs to heal. So she goes along with James. After all, he dropped everything to bring her home and nurse her back to health. Yet life in the relative safety of Brooklyn runs clearly against her nature. You can take the girl out of danger, but you can't take the desire for danger out of the girl.
As James and Sarah struggle though their edgy relationship, they are visited by their editor and friend, Richard Ehrlich (John Wylie) and his newmuch youngergirlfriend, Mandy Bloom (Christie Carter), an event planner. Mandy has the optimism of a ditz. She brings balloons that say "welcome home" and "get well," while James and Sarah roll their eyes. Yet her relationship with Richard is real. And while James and Sarah shrug her off as inconsequential, she at one point challenges the morality of covering a war, asking how they can take pictures of wounded children without dropping everything to help.
While Sarah tries to embrace the domesticity James craves, its just not in her. For Sarah, a Brooklyn apartment is more psychologically difficult than the violent roads of Iraq. James struggles with his writing, turning to lowbrow horror movie reviews, while he fights his professional jealousy of Sarah's greater talent. And still, he can't really come to terms with Sarah's affair.
The first act follows the rising tension, conflicts and contradictions between James and Sarah. The second and final act plays out the inevitable. The action and conflict are more subdued in the second act, while remaining true to the two characters. Margulies doesn't go for cheap explosives. He lets the relationship between James and Sarah ride its ups and downs based on their conflicted emotions.
Matt Heath's direction is steady and clean, as is his set design. The sturdiness allows James and Sarah's emotions to become the only reality. Crilly and Boehler both deliver strong performances. Crilly captures the subtle conflicts in Sarah, while Boehler nails James' emotions as he swings from domestic escapism to frustration with Sarah. Wylie as Richard and Carter as Mandy also bring in fine performances.
Overall, it is an excellent show. Time Stands Still debuted on Broadway just two and a half years ago. It's refreshing to see such recent drama on an Albuquerque stage. Kudos to the Adobe Theater and Matt Heath for this production.
Time Stands Still, written by Donald Margulies and directed by Matt Heath, is playing at the Adobe Theater, 9813 Fourth St. NW, through October 9. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 pm, and Sunday at 2 pm. General admission is $15. Senior and student tickets are $13. For reservations, call 505-898-9222.