BWW Reviews: TIME STANDS STILL Focuses on Living Through the Lens of a Camera as Opposed to Real Life

For those of us who spend a lot of time capturing moments of time through the lens of a camera, it often seems strange that we cannot re-focus real life to make it appear just the way we want it to be rather than how it really is. Donald Margulies' drama TIME STAND STILL takes a hard look at photographic journalist, the strong-willed and emotionally raw Sarah Goodwin (Karen Harrison) who, following a brush with death delivered by a roadside bomb while on location, has an emotional recovery in store that is every bit as real as her physical injuries.

As she and her life companion, correspondent James Dodd (Richard Perloff), struggle to make sense of their lives stateside in the wake of their war-torn realities. James is ready to settle down, get married, and have an ordinary life in their Brooklyn apartment. While on the mend, Sarah agrees to marry him, perhaps even consider having a family. But as she recuperates and has the chance to start working again, their lives are torn apart by her devotion to documenting history for all to see.

"When something devastating happens, how do you put the pieces back together? Boldly? Cautiously? Do you cling to what's familiar or do you start all over again?" asks director Patrick Vest. "And what really makes up a life? A family? A career? These are the question this play explores beautifully." Of course these are questions people ask themselves all the time in their own lives, and always will.

As Sarah is recovering, she and James are joined by their editor Richard (Tony Cicchetti) who besides sending them out on assignment is preparing to publish a book of Sarah's war photos accompanied by James' commentary. Samples of Sarah's war photos are shown on the back wall of their apartment between scenes, although none show the devastating attacks and resulting bloodshed discussed by each of the characters. When asked, Vest explained he wanted to show the beauty Sarah's sees in her photos, focusing on the faces of war rather than the bloodshed. War horror experiences by both Sarah and James are described in brutal detail rather than showing photos of the atrocities, a decision made by the director to focus audience attention on her work rather than injuries.

Thrown into the mix is Richard's much-younger girlfriend Mandy (Dana Pollak), a bubble-headed blonde who, as the play progresses and time passes, matures into a woman who Sarah and James learn to admire for her devotion to her family. In one of the strongest emotional moments in the play, as Sarah looks at Mandy's "beautiful" baby, Harrison's facial expression conveys her horrific memories of mothers torn apart from their children by war - and her mind is made up. She must continue her work to make a difference the only way that has meaning for her, as time stops when she looks through the rectangle lens of a camera.

James, on the other hand, is done with war reporting having experienced the horror of an attack with devastating injuries first-hand. Perloff allows us to experience the full depth of James' anger and heartbreak, making his decision to change the path of his life all the more reasonable. He just wants to have a secure and safe home life with the woman he loves, raising a family and enjoying life rather than having to run for his life in a war-torn hell hole. And who can blame him for not needing to dodge bullets to feel alive anymore?

As Harrison shares Sarah's war recollections, especially her feelings for her "fixer" tour guide who perished in the same attack that so severely injured her, you could hear a pin drop in the theater. The same is true when Pollak's Mandy compares the devastation Sarah has seen to a news story which showed a baby elephant separated from its mother by a sand dune, destined to die while photographers just keep taking photos rather than help the poor animal out and survive. When Sarah responds that she is there not to change history but to record and capture the truth, admitting others may she her making a career off the suffering of others, Mandy's tears over the lost elephant certainly will get you thinking whether those who take photos should put down the camera when real help could be provided. It's not an easy decision to make, especially given the amount of money to be made for exclusive photos these days, not to mention our need to constantly post photos of our lives on Facebook and other social media networks.

This play is so well written with honest observations on modern life, and directed with an intimate understanding of the characters, the audience is positioned as flies on the wall watching the action as if we are reflecting on our own lives as well as the characters. The four actors have been brilliantly cast and molded by director Vest to bring fully developed characters with real wants and needs into the mix. When James and Sarah lash out at each other, their anger is palpable, as is the sexual energy between Richard and Mandy. The actors are totally focused and feed off the energy emanating from each other from moment to moment, making the action and emotions all the more real and heartfelt. This is truly a brilliant piece of theater, posing thought-provoking unanswerable questions.

Little Fish Theatre presents Donald Margulies' captivating drama TIME STANDS STILL on Fridays and Saturdays August 8 through September 6, 2014. Tickets and show info at

Founded in 2002, Little Fish Theatre presents classic and contemporary plays in an intimate setting at 777 Centre Street in downtown San Pedro. Producing eleven plays each year for a one-room 65-seat venue, Little Fish delivers the quintessential close-up theatrical experience, where audience and performers share space and sight-lines, making for eruptive laughter, highly-charged action and palpable emotion.

Photos by Mickey Elliot

Karen Harrison and Richard Perloff

Karen Harrison and Richard Perloff

Dana Pollak and Tony Cicchetti

Karen Harrison and Richard Perloff

Ricard Perloff, Tony Cicchetti and Dana Pollak

Dana Polloak and Karen Harrison

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