A Snapshot that Asks The Right Questions
The news we consume every day does not come to the general public magically. Out there, in the world right now, are journalists and photo journalists whose job it is to take down the accounts of war-torn areas, countries suffering under terrible oppression, and all the going-ons of the world beyond the immediate central hubs of bustling, metropolitan civilizations. This is where playwright Donald Margulies frames his play, against the backdrop of a photojournalist (Therese Olival) and a writer (Rob Duval), both of whom are touched in different ways from an assignment in the Middle East. Time Stands Still, directed by Alex Munro, is currently running at Hawaii Pacific University’s Paul and Vi Loo Theatre.
Marguiles’ script is layered and realistic, with one of the highlights being his dialogue and capturing the human condition quite well. Sarah Goodwin (Olival) and James Dodd (Duval) return home from an assignment in the Middle East, and Sarah has suffered physically. After a roadside bomb covered her face in shrapnel and took her leg out of commission for a spell, walking up to their loft in Willaimsburg, Brooklyn was difficult. Olival, throughout the production, adjusts to her injury and it doubles as a way to track time. In the opening scene, she is clearly hurting, with a crutch and a brace around her leg and arm, but she powers through. Sarah is independent to a fault, driven by her convictions, taking every moment to refuse help from her partner, James. We learn James had a mental breakdown during his coverage of the Middle East, and Duval portrays this side of him in a very human way- he doesn’t like revisiting it often, and finds ways to keep his distance. At one point, he might have been just as feisty as Sarah, rearing to cover the hardest wars and the poorest of people. However, this incident has reframed life in his eyes- he wants a family, to settle down, to cherish the life he has left with the person he is currently sharing it with. Sarah and James aren’t married, but have been living together for upwards of eight years. Neither used to think about the idea of marriage, but with this excursion bringing them both home, hurt in different ways, they visit this question and see where the other stands on it.
While this is largely Sarah and James’ journeys through their relationship, wounds, and work, Richard (Eli Kent Mills Foster) and Mandy (Cierra Wall) are a vital part of their story as well. Richard is not only Sarah and James’ long time confidant, but also their editor. He knows how great they both are at their jobs, but is also concerned about their well beings, so he has been trying to see them since they landed back in America. When they are all finally able to get together, it’s a heartwarming scene to see. The chemistry between Foster, Olival, and Duval truly makes you believe they’ve been working together for twenty (I may be mistaken) or so odd years. Richard, a middle-aged man, has brought his new girlfriend Mandy- young, attractive, and raising a lot of questions for their long time friend. She is a party planner, and clearly sticks out as she doesn’t fully comprehend the scope of what the three of them do. It’s this slight naivete that gets her asking hard hitting questions- why would you snap a camera when someone is suffering in front of you? Are we just lucky to be born in a world where you don’t have to fight to survive? While her questions rile up Sarah, Margulies does not have any answers- he merely starts the conversation. An important step, notes Munro.
Duval, Olival, and Foster are dynamic in their portrayals of their characters. Present are every bit of nuance, wit, and vulnerability you need for these types of dramatic pieces. This is Wall’s first theatrical production, and as such when watching her you may feel sh'e’s out of place from the other three actors because of her delivery (which at times is a bit slower than the naturalistic dialogue pace set by the other three). However, she pushes forward and makes the role her own, even commanding the stage for a spell during the second act, and does not hold back the production at all.
Munro’s design team is incredible. DeAnne Kennedy’s set design looks like an upscale catalog, with many comments from the audience wishing to live in the hip, modern space she has dreamed up. Janine Myers’ lighting design is subtle but effective, gently adjusting to the mood of the scenes playing out in front of us. Jason Taglianetti’s sound design fits the realistic tone of the show, and we are treated to sound bites of various types of news coverage from NPR and the like that play during the transitions. With such detailed (and solid) costumes by Carlynn Wolfe and props by Caitlin Tong (eating and drinking on stage, a coffee maker that actually works), a scene transition needed to be longer than usual to strike and set the scenes. Taglianetti’s clips make these transitions not feel long at all, and are a great touch between him and Munro.
Munro acknowledges in his director’s note that Margulies did not craft answers in his play, leaving the audience to decide for themselves how they fall on different themes and moral quandaries. Margulies, through his script, shows multiple sides of the conversation, and Munro honors that through his directing. A complex, layered, and realistic production (that also invites you to laugh here and there- the comedy is there to release the tension), Time Stands Still is a moving piece of work. It has three performances left, November 23-25. Tickets are available at www.hpu.edu/theatre or by calling 808-236-7917 and leaving a message.