Brent Gettlefinger, Katherine Martn, David Galloway, & Heather Green in Time Stands Still. Photo courtesy The Liminal Playhouse.
Time Stands Still
By Donald Margulies
Directed by Tony Prince
Reviewed by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2017 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Relationships are fluid, organic things. The changes can be difficult to navigate for the most ordinary among us, but the challenges are thrown into high relief when our lives turn on the events of war and tragedy. Sarah (Heather Green) is a photojournalist who survived an explosion in Iraq that killed her guide. Her boyfriend, James (David Galloway) is a journalist who feels tremendous guilt because he had left Iraq a few weeks before the incident. They are welcomed home by their friend and editor Richard (Brent Gettlefinger), and his new, much younger girlfriend, Mandy (Katherine Martin).
Richard and Mandy are in many ways an intentional cliché, the May-September romance, and Mandy is written, in stark contrast to the worldly Sarah and angst-ridden James, as eternally upbeat and optimistic, and played with a fine sense of the balance required by Katherine Martin. Mandy never quite seems to fit in, and Ms. Martin milks the laughs with consummate and endearing skill, but the play and the performance also demand respect for the character so that it doesn’t feel trapped in sophomoric comedy.
It is likely that playwright Donald Margulies would have us imagine Mandy will become more cynical with time, so that the complications that have beset Sarah and James and placed their relationship in jeopardy await her, and by extension all of us, for Mandy is most certainly the audience’s surrogate. There are plenty of raw emotions, as the two further expose their true feelings and insecurities. Sarah is anxious to return to work with all that risk that entails, while James takes a patronizing, overprotective attitude towards Sarah during her convalescence. Infidelity and betrayal are important themes here, allowing us to more readily identify with the conflict.
Margulies uses structure and devices that are common enough: the fish-out-of-water character of Mandy, the slow reveal of history and secrets that illuminate the heart of the issues. We’ve seen such ideas in many plays, but Time Stands Still uses specificity and well-grounded observation to touch on universal experience. It has the taste and good sense to trust the audience to do its part in connecting to these characters, and rewards us with meaningful insight and pathos.
Director Tony Prince has fashioned performances that alternate subtlety and big emotional moments with fair transition. The text charts a shifting dynamic that peels back layers until we are forced to realize that the changes may be inexorable, and Ms. Green, Mr. Galloway, and Mr. Gettlefinger, for in many ways this is a ménage a trois, display a fine understanding of the quicksand these characters find themselves in.
Wes Shofner provides a solid and well-detailed set, and Theresa Bagan lights it perfectly. Shane Estes costume work is most notable in capturing Mandy’s bubbly style and personality. And Liminal makes good use of its secret weapon of Producing Director Richard McGrew’s skills as a composer and musician, once again boasting an evocative original score, simple but filled with portent.
In a conversation after the opening with an actor not involved in this production, we pondered the challenge of serious plays such as this finding audiences for local companies. Do theatregoers imagine that professional companies can only give full justice such material? While the Humana Festival unfurls six new plays with great fanfare and marketing muscle, Looking for Lilith revived its lauded, world premiere production of Robin Rice’s Alice in Black & White to less-than-full houses, and now The Liminal Playhouse gives a Louisville premiere to this worthwhile American play. It might be said that all of Liminal’s choices are not easy to market, but our city can boast several companies devoted to ferreting out some of the best dramatic writing in Western theatre, and players talented enough to fully render them; audiences should give them a chance.
Time Stands Still
|March 23, 24, 25, 30, 31 and April 1 at 7:30 p.m
March 26 and April 2 at 2:00 p.m.Tickets: $18 in advance, $20 at door
The Liminal Playhouse
At The Henry Clay Theatre
604 South Third Street
Louisville, KY 40203
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of PUBLIC on WXOX-FM 97.1/ ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.