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Donald Margulies’ Time Stands Still Probes the Depths of Human Experience

The Time Stands Still cast includes (from left) John Honeycutt, Katie Barrett, and Olivia Griego

The Time Stands Still cast includes (from left) John Honeycutt, Katie Barrett, and Olivia Griego

Donald Margulies’ Time Stands Still, produced by South Stream Productions and performed at Sonorous Road Productions’ theater, shows characters in extraordinary circumstances; but their situations invite us to examine our own lives in our own “ordinary” circumstances. Margulies’ writing is nothing short of spectacular. He has laced the drama with witty dialogue and humorous situations; and as we empathize with the characters and search our own souls, we frequently are doing so between laughs.

Sarah Goodwin is a photojournalist who, while covering the war in Iraq, has been seriously injured by a bomb. James Dodd is a writer/journalist who has been recovering from a nervous breakdown that he had suffered in Iraq.

These two have been in a relationship for eight years, and James has just brought Sarah home to recover from her injuries. They obviously care very deeply for each other. Just as obviously, however, they are at odds over “where we can go from here.” Yet they both want very badly for everything to work out; and we want it for them, just as badly.

Richard Ehrlich is their friend/business associate. Mandy Bloom is his much younger girlfriend. They have only been together for a few months.

As the play explores these relationships, it raises questions about “what we want” and “what we need.” Delving further, dramatist Donald Margulies also invites us to question “what we want to need” and “what we need to want.”

And then there are the questions raised. What about the responsibilities of journalists and how they might conflict with “responsibilities” that we, as decent people might feel towards others? Should reporters only report? Or should they “interfere” (i.e. try to help)? Or does sticking to “just reporting” actually somehow help? And do the subjects of their reporting have rights and privacy and dignity that should not be compromised?

Director Andy Hayworth has paced everything expertly. Just as we have managed to digest one aspect of the characters’ situations and consider the questions raised, we are served with yet another wrinkle. And when their interactions become intense, the timing keeps us on the edge of our seats. There are some serious arguments in which the characters “talk over each other,” but the timing is so tight that we miss nothing.

Olivia Griego gives us a Sarah who is strong and determined. While she appreciates the care that she is getting from James, she does not want to be smothered or patronized. Griego’s tones of voice and her facial expressions leave little doubt about the nuances of her lines. She skillfully enables Sarah to mask her vulnerabilities with a tough veneer and just as skillfully lets that veneer slip at crucial points.

Brook North’s James, of course, wants the best for Sarah, but his vision is not necessarily the same as hers. He wasn’t there when she was injured, and that bothers him. But even from the get-go, North gives us the impression that there is more to it. Is there something else that he feels guilty about? Or is it a feeling of helplessness that drives his near-neurotic behavior? The terms “fuss-budget” and “scurry” come to mind as we watch North’s performance.

Brook North (left) and Olivia Griego star as a war-weary reporter and a war-chasing photojournalist

Brook North (left) and Olivia Griego star as a war-weary reporter and a war-chasing photojournalist

John Honeycutt plays Richard as a man who knows himself and knows what he wants (and why). His love for his friends and for his girlfriend is quite evident. And he is just as dedicated to his profession. There is no doubt that Richard and Mandy love the life they have chosen as much as they love each other.

Katie Barrett is delightful as Mandy. We initially perceive her to be shallow and silly. But it is Mandy who articulates some of the more crucial questions raised by the play, and her questions lead the others to do some soul-searching. And there are, of course, the obvious jokes about the disparity between her age and Richard’s. Sarah especially plays these to the hilt. Listen for the word “embryonic,” and be prepared to laugh.

Sonorous Road Productions’ venue works nicely for the play. With audience on three sides, the action takes place practically right in their laps. The honesty and commitment of these four actors enable even the most subtle body language and facial expression to contribute to our experience of the show.

The set (designed by Todd Houseknecht) is a realistic representation of the apartment in which Sarah and James live. The bedroom is upstage, furnished appropriately for this couple. Downstage is a living room/dining room area. Most of the action takes place downstage at the table, on the couch, or between the two.

Our Department of Pick-Picky usually points out one or more minor shortcomings. In this case, however, we feel compelled to make two positive “minor” observations:

1. This couple’s bar is appropriately furnished — with Laphroaig Single-Malt Scotch and Jameson’s Irish Whiskey.

2. This production does a phenomenal job of creating the illusion that Sarah Goodwin has been seriously injured. Her makeup is masterfully done — Mario Griego went to great lengths to simulate facial injuries, to be sure that the scars faded somewhat as the months passed, and to include scars that would be visible (and in the correct places) when she removed her leg brace and when she wore a sleeveless shirt.

Even more impressive, however, is Olivia Griego’s use of crutches and, later, a cane; it is totally believable. There was never any doubt that this character was in pain and that she needed the support.

When she goes from two crutches to one, it is painfully obvious that this transition is too soon. And Saturday night’s audience gasped audibly when she first attempted a step with neither brace nor crutch. Major kudos!

The show runs two more weekends. Catch it if you can!

If you haven’t tried it yet, Sonorous Road Productions’ theater in conveniently located in Cameron Village on Oberlin Road, right near the roundabout, with plenty of parking space. We highly recommend you see this fine production.

SECOND OPINION: Jan. 4th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks:; and Dec. 30th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Jan. 3rd Triangle Review review by Martha Keravuori and Chuck Galle, click

South Stream Productions presents TIME STANDS STILL at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 7-9, 2 p.m. Jan. 10, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 14-16, and 2 p.m. Jan. 17 at Sonorous Road Productions, 209 Oberlin Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina 27605.

TICKETS: $19.90 ($17.80 students and seniors), except $15.70 Thursdays.


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Time Stands Still (2009 Los Angeles and 2010 Broadway play): (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.), (Internet Broadway Database), and (Wikipedia).

The Script: (Google Books).

Study Guide: (The Public Theatre of Lewiston, ME).

Donald Margulies (Brooklyn, NY-born playwright): (Yale University daculty bio), ( The Playwrights Database), (Internet Broadway Database), (Internet Movie Database), and (Wikipedia).

Andy Hayworth (director): (Facebook page).


Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.

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Categorised in: A&E Theatre Reviews, Lead Story, Reviews