Time Stands Still
Director Susan Fenichell has staged a beautifully intimate production of Donald Margulies' play Time Stands Still at Washington's Studio Theatre, anchored by a carefully constructed performance by Holly Twyford as a war photographer coping with both physical and emotional stress.
The play examines the ethics of photojournalismdoes watching dispassionately through a lens, capturing the truth to share it with the world, become complicity with the horrors being recorded?as well as the human drama that occurs when people in constant motion suddenly and unexpectedly come to rest.
Sarah (Twyford) was covering the war in Iraq when an improvised explosive device killed her translator and left her with a scarred face, broken arm, and immobilized leg. Her partner James (Greg McFadden) is a writer who left the battlefield earlier because of emotional distress; now, in the unaccustomed quiet of their Brooklyn loft, they have to get used to each other and the world of domesticity. Complicating their readjustment are Richard (Dan Illian), Sarah and James' editor, and his younger, idealistic girlfriend Mandy (Laura C. Harris).
Once again, Twyford demonstrates her awesome versatility in her incarnation of Sarah. She grounds her performance in stillness (as in the transcendent moment when she looks through the viewfinder and frames a photo): her luminous eyes take in everything, she moves with economy, she makes every moment count. At the same time, she's utterly self-aware with her pointed sense of humor and her effort to maintain the unified front she has always shared with James.
McFadden, soft-spoken and quiet, provides a good balance for Twyford, but he's perhaps a little too low-key for a man who has experienced adrenaline highs in dangerous places. (Brian D'Arcy James, a more physical and propulsive actor, played the role in the New York production.) Illian is avuncular and empathetic, while Harris conveys the genuine sincerity and backbone of a woman who at first seems shallow.
John McDermott has designed an expansive loft set in the Metheny Theatre, featuring a skylight, a practical kitchen sink, and a sliding frosted-glass door in front of the bathroom.