BWW Reviews: A Picture is Worth the Time It Captures in WHAT's TIME STANDS STILL
There are so many people in this world that are fascinated by such a myriad of things, but regardless of what that interest may be, each of those individuals shares a certain something with their fellow aficionados: they believe in that power of that hobby, that job or whatever it may be deemed to compel him or her towards happiness - towards the discovery of what makes their lives worth while. There are many in this world who merely survive with the inherent desire to be happy, but do not have the capability of finding out that "spark" which will ultimately bring that sense of joy to fruition; it is a joy that rarely can be found and followed with such alacrity and passion that makes the average person turn into something extraordinary. It eradicates the unimportant, sometimes mercilessly, so that a person's passion reigns supreme; it is a compelling force that can be felt but not always explained. Something that is so personal, so raw in the context of the human soul is what audiences are given a glimpse of in the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater's (WHAT) uncomfortably riveting production of Time Stands Still. This powerful and provocative piece of theater brings its audience to question what the true value of a passion is when it does more to deface one's humanity than to strengthen it - when such a narrow focus overrides the basic meaning of life.
Written by Donald Margulies and beautifully directed by Michael Unger, Time Stands Still cannot necessarily be viewed for all its value in the larger sense, but instead must be dissected and understood through the various individual moments that make this the beautifully raw production it is. There are so many different moments that make an individual's life what it is, and to have those moments thrown together to create a generalized idea of what that person has gone through to have her arrive at this given point is certainly not something Margulies surmised when thinking of the premise of this play. He must have contemplated what it was like for someone to think over her life with such scrupulous precision and care, but to have that fall short in contrast to what she feels - not only for other people, but for the cause for which her heart continues to beat - is perhaps something that has gotten the best of much of humanity for years and years past. Many of us will succumb to that which, like a need calls our names and makes it an imperative to follow a certain path, even though happiness was formerly thought to be had elsewhere; that person must ask if it was even possible in the first place to be happy in the company of another when the individual is more valid a substance than two people put together to do the same thing - the irony to be found in this entire story.
Margulies as a writer does a spectacular job in capturing the raw and sometimes inexplicable qualities that make certain people incompatible and not necessarily wrong, but just not equipped to feel for their equals as they do about people they can instead be helping - about people who need others instead of those who just come together out of basic protocol. Time Stands Still is, without yet commenting on the production itself, just a beautiful some beautiful writing that captures that dark place only certain people can find in themselves, and in turn do with it what they can; it truly is insightful.
Times Stands Still tells the story of Sarah and James, a photojournalist and a foreign correspondent who travel to far away places - sometime those torn apart by war or poverty, while others that are close to home but nevertheless deal with the oppressed and downtrodden - to capture the pain and suffering of the unfortunate souls forced to endure such torture. Whether together or separate, as a couple of eight years they seek to inform the world of the misery that exists in the world, and through both their photos and writing bring the unfortunates of the world to the attention of those who would otherwise not known of their plights. It is an admirable act of kindness, but the couple's personal life is lacking in substance because it has been considered less important than the duty to the world they have been called to perform. They are unmarried after so long a relationship, and Sarah shows no intention of having children in the near future.
The play commences with a doting James helping a very injured but not emotionally shattered Sarah into their apartment and onto the couch. Her leg and are immobilized and cast, while the entire left side of her body is covered in blots: wounds received from a roadside bomb in wartime Iraq. Forced to stay home and heal while James enjoys the "normalcy" of helping his girlfriend and the time spent relaxing and watching Netflix, the time it takes to heal can ironically not do anything to heal the emotional wounds that have been brewing in their minds for the past few years - years that were lost together when they were just coexisting working on their numerous projects. What ensues in the course of this time is a miraculous thing to watch on stage, and the story itself does take so many different turns. As I said, there are so many moments that are so raw and unnerving in themselves that, when put together, create such a powerful and profound story of two people who are simply trying to figure out why they cannot live as human beings without the overwhelming need of helping those who are unfortunately less so.
The production itself is beautiful: from the set, which is equally as homely as it is rather cold (it is seen as almost half home, half institution) to the acting, it is simply a well-down production, and I am very happy that this was the first show at WHAT I was asked to review. There is so much raw emotion on stage brought forth by actors who must take a very emotionally demanding script and present it to an expectant audience. There is happiness to be found in this play, but it is muted and somewhat subtle. There is always lurking besides it this ominous feeling that something bad will come and ruin everything; even when it seems that nothing can go wrong, as with the case of a personal friend and his rather young wife, there is such dread around the corner of every moment that makes the show literally "stand still." It lingers there and sets the mood for how people ought to feel while watching the show, and whatever does happen up until the very end is shadowed by this doubt and sadness that prevails until there is nothing left.
It is a very emotional show - not in the sense that the audience will break down and cry for those on stage, but in the sense of what it feels like to live in a depressed state. There is happiness but duty and personal fulfillment eradicates the need for pure, human desire and joy; there is the question of "what should be" in contrast to what unfortunately "is." It is a joy watching these characters figure out what is going on in their own lives, and fortunately they are given the opportunity to move on in a way that is unfortunate, but what everyone saw coming. This really is a wonderful show, and very well done.
Time Stands Still, being performed at the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater (located at 2357 Route 6 in Wellfleet) began its run on September 3rd and will continue thru September 26th; all performances take place at the Julie Harris Stage. Tickets range from $12-$45, and may be purchased either in person at the box office, by calling (508).349.9428 or by visiting www.what.org. The performances schedule is as follows: Thursday thru Monday @ 8 PM. Concessions are available before and during the show.
Enjoy the show!
Photo Credit: Michael & Suz Karchmer