Time Stands Still
For a writer it might be the space one finds in a crowded café.. ..
For a cabinet maker it might be donning ear plugs and concentrating on gliding his electric tools to make the perfect cuts….
For an athlete it may be called getting in the zone….
For war photographer Sarah (played by Sara Pavlak McGuire) this moment of supreme concentration when the world fades away is actually when she brings it into focus through her camera lens and time stands still.
Tuning out the world though is a different proposition when the part of the world you are in is a war zone or site of similar grand disaster, something Sarah and James (played by Robert Tobin), her life partner and war zone journalist, have managed for years. We learn living in these war zones can have perks—like the adrenaline charged great sex that happens in between bomb burstings.
War Zone Lovebirds
But it also leaves scars—quite evident on Sarah’s face, and more of the hidden PTSD kind for James.
We meet them in their several stories walk up flat, which she struggled royally to get to in her leg length cast. She’s on drugs, in pain, and short-tempered, which she reportedly is even on the best of days. She’s healing from a roadside bombing. He is trying to make up for not being at her side when she got hurt.
Time Stands Still’s story then unfolds to explore the question of whether or how there can be a moving on to another phase of life for the likes of Sarah and James. Is there a day after the war or just some days in between?
Their friends and foils
Two folks cut of more mainstream mold are counterpoints to this warzone love match. One is Richard, their longtime friend and often publisher, played by Rob Frankel. Mandy (played by Kirra Silver) is his new and much younger girlfriend. She seems to be simple and guileless in comparison to the three much older friends. Not unlike a Shakespearean court jester role, she ends up getting many of the best truth teller lines that cut to the heart of the moral and life choices that Sarah and James have made. Richard is the poster boy of sorts of a man who has made the decision to move on to happiness. It’s through seeing Richard and Mandy do the most everyday moves to be happy that we get to see how much Sarah and James have been akin to a military jeep stuck in a ditch and under fire.
AstonRep Theatre Company Assembles Superior Cast
More than anything else, Time Stands Still is brought to life in this production by top-shelf acting. When Sarah and James (Sara Pavlak McGuire and Robert Tobin) fight and exchange pointed verbal volleys it flows from their beings with incredibly natural rhythms. They seem to give the lines more heft than they might have as standalones on the script page. Similarly, Rob Frankel makes Richard’s sentimentality, simplicity and loyalties a perfect fit on his person. What a treat to spy Kirra Silver tramping home after the show, with two different colored socks, and a downward cast that proved her constantly-shining-face-of-cheer is an act, and a good one.
The script by Donald Margulies gives us a dramatic view of the subject matter. For this writer, however, it doesn’t quite match the Drama with a capital D of hearing author and long-time war correspondent Chris Hedges excerpt his popular book, War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning in a crowded lecture hall. Nor does the two lead characters’ dialogue sync 100% with real-world encounters with Stanford political science grads, or cerebral book publishers, and the like. No Rachel Maddows they.
That said, this is impeccable acting. And, it’s still a clean story of how we do and do not move on in life—this time this evergreen topic told in the context of these PTSD-drenched lovers. It was especially perfect fare for a Memorial Day Weekend outing, not allowing romanticism of war heroes to whitewash the brutality of war.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO. Click here to read — Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Now through June 11
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturday at 8:00 PM
Sundays at 3:30 PM
The Raven Theatre (West Stage)
6157 North Clark Street
Note: Ann excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago.