James (Andres May), a writer, and Sarah (Angela Reed), a photographer, have returned to New York from covering the war in Iraq. They have been living together for over five years, and they often work these assignments together. But this time, they did not return together. James left Iraq first, after suffering a breakdown, and he was not there when Angela was the victim of a roadside bombing attack. As the play opens, James is bringing Sarah back to their Brooklyn apartment after her stay in a German hospital. Evidence of her physical wounds are present: she has a soft cast on her leg, one arm in a sling, and there are small gashes on her face and body. What emerges is how they cope with the traumatheir own and each other'sand how it all effects their future, as a couple and as journalists.
Director Tracy Brigden guides a talented cast through the progress of healing and adapting of the two main characters. Sarah's friend and editor Richard (Tim McGeever) and his new girlfriend Mandy (Robin Abramson) bring an outside perspective, from the part of the world that hasn't changed.
Both James and Sarah are wounded profoundly by their experiences, but they handle it differently, and the differences cause conflict. The play moves methodically and is a snapshot of this brief but important time in the characters' lives. By play's end, they are not really different from how they were in the first scene, they are have just moved in time. Perhaps that's the meaning of the title.
May and Reed fit easily into these roles, and make the play compelling. McGeever is effective as well; while his character is the least developed, he adds to James and Sarah's story from his own perspective, and he adds humor (for instance, calling James and Sarah the "Sid and Nancy of journalism"). Abramson shines in the role of Mandy. At first it seems the character, the new young girlfriend of Richard, may be a bit ditzy, there for comic relief. But her perspective is important as well, and she ends up having an effect on the way James and Sarah move on with life. She also presents the interesting sidetrack but large issue of whether or not reporters should become involved in the story.
Tony Ferrieri's set of the couple's loft apartment is complete and realistic. Lighting by Ann G. Wrightson is superb, and Robert C.T. Steele's costumes are perfect. It is a great package, a gem of a play with interesting characters and situations that stay in your mind after the show is over.
Time Stands Still continues at City Theatre through November 6, 2011. For performance and ticket information, call 412.431.CITY (2489) or visit www.citytheatrecompany.org/.