The outside world continually impinges on the small, bookish flat shared by photojournalist Sarah Goodwin (Rebecca Dines) and war correspondent James Dodd (Mark Anderson Phillips). From the opening sounds of the airplane overhead, to the rain beating against the windowpanes in Act II, we’re conscious of the external world and how the characters relate to it. Who leaves this room – and who doesn’t – is central to Time Stands Still, which just opened at the TheatreWorks’ venue at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts.
This consciousness of the world outside is only appropriate, given that Sarah Goodwin and James Dodd are both at home, healing from traumas both physical and psychological occasioned by covering events in Iraq. However, this play doesn’t so much dwell on the political as it does on the undercurrents, spoken and unspoken, between Goodwin and Dodd. When their friend, Richard Erlich (Rolf Saxon) and his new bride, the almost unconscionably young Mandy Bloom (Sarah Moser) enter, they bring unnerving changes.
Authored by Yale Pulitzer winner Donald Margulies, Time Stands Still is said by some to be his best work yet. As a new work, it clearly speaks to modern tensions both interpersonal and beyond.
As played by Rebecca Dines, Sarah Goodwin is a remarkably fearless woman whose unwavering commitment to what she does stuns the audience. Even at her weakest, when she falls on stage before us after being brought home from the hospital after incurring grossly disfiguring injuries, we never doubt the steel in her spine. Her partner, James (“Jamie”), who offers himself up ironically to a not entirely academic study of horror films, is less convincing. Mark Anderson Phillips’ take on James is at it’s best when he’s supporting Goodwin. He’s most convincing at his weakest. His outrage, especially in Act II, rings false, as that of an actor playing someone who is angry.
Sarah Moser, who played Mandy Bloom, was the surprising element of this show. Costumer designer Anna Oliver offered up apparel for Bloom’s character that is just this side of ridiculous. As Erlich’s new (and pregnant) love interest, Bloom enters the room clothed in her silly pink parka and inappropriate balloons. A self-styled event planner, she is so colossally unformed and uninformed that it would be easy to dislike her. However, Sarah Moser holds her own, redeems this character, and wins our hearts in spite of ourselves. She becomes far more than a mere foil for Rebecca Dines.
In many ways, Richard Erlich (Rolf Saxon) is the most credible of the lot. Insofar as he provides professional sustenance and good humor for Dines and Dodds, he could be an intellectual version of Max in The Sound of Music.
TheatreWorks opens with a production worth taking in.Despite the occasional false note, this play milks the humor out of horrifying situations, making them spot on and real. Time Stands Still is a thinking show for thinking people.