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BWW Review: Love and Obligation are at War in TIME STANDS STILL

Before leaving for Jobsite Theater's production of TIME STANDS STILL, I received a notice that my rent would be increasing by $90 per month. This assault on my pocket seemed excessive and arbitrary, as the previous increases had not resulted in any changes - aesthetic or utilitarian - to my complex. This notification annoyed me. I spent the drive to the theater mentally preparing for the fight I was going to have with my property manager the following Monday. $90 a month; what a liberty.
I met friends prior to the show, distracting me from my irrational rental-related rage. I had pushed it aside by the time I entered the Shimberg and set eyes on Brian Smallheer's set. It was a modern apartment with exposed brick and an impressive "view" of the city. It was decorated with pops of red, artwork, and a bookshelf featuring interesting foreign covers unavailable for audience perusal. The space was one of those casually chic showrooms that, try as you might, you're never able to replicate. It was the home of adults who hung coats on designated hooks rather than tossing them aside; a couple who hand-washed glasses, and made special trips for dulce de leche. It was an apartment worthy of an extra $90 a month.
Congratulations to Smallheer for making all other apartments seem unlivable. Though uncommon to begin a review raving about the set, I think it's important to commend a designer whose organized, conventional space helped to highlight the chaos building among the characters from the moment the step on stage.
TIME STANDS STILL is the story of Sarah (Joanna Sycz), a photojournalist injured while covering the war in Iraq, and her boyfriend, James (Dr. David Jenkins), a foreign correspondent who had left Iraq prior to Sarah's accident.
There is tension early on as James' attempts to coddle Sarah are met with resentment. Jenkins' portrayal is a strong return to the stage. His face is full of expression; mirroring senses of guilt, nervousness, love, or pain at different times. Early in the first act he laments to Sarah, "I wasn't there," and the defeat in his voice is raw. Being the uninjured party carries its own struggle, and Jenkins transitions are heartfelt and realistic.
Sycz has a difficult task in presenting Sarah, because the character is not entirely likeable. She's been through a layered ordeal, and the resulting feelings are explosive. As a person used to being in the thick of action, having to go home and rest is sedentary torture. James' guilt-laced over-protection is bothersome, and her reactions are often hostile. Sycz shines when making social situations intentionally awkward; moments that are emphasized when the couple's friends are introduced.
Richard (Brian Shea) is a photo editor who stops by with his new - much younger - girlfriend, Mandy (Maggie Mularz). Mularz's Mandy is wide-eyed, seemingly naive, and mostly optimistic. Her soft demeanor battles the more hardened natures of the other characters. She has yet to be desensitized by harsh realities presented by the world. It's easy to accept Mularz as Mandy. Though she starts off sweet enough to give you a toothache, there is a strong progression in her character from start to finish. She can tell when she's being patronized and in the end presents a firm idea about the person she wants to be.
I am openly and unapologetically Team Shea. Richard is a fun character to watch as he tries to run interference between his girlfriend and his friends. The difference between his and Mandy's ages is met with mockery once Mandy leaves the room, and he seamlessly goes from flustered to defensive. He gives as good as he gets; pointing out the flaws in his friends and questioning what they know about love.
Summer Bohnenkamp's direction aptly tells a story that asks so many pertinent questions - especially in today's climate. What does an "ordinary person" do in the face of tragedy? What is an appropriate reaction to misfortune in a world that is becoming increasingly desensitized? How much time is required to heal; physically or emotionally? How much time do you dedicate to the person you're with? When does love start to shift into obligation? When does empathy become a perceived burden? When is it acceptable to move on?
Donald Margulies' play is uncomfortably fitting today. This foursome presents the issues in a thoughtful manner, and creates a solid platform for further discussion about war, love, fidelity, and forgiveness.

TIME STANDS STILL runs until July 31, 2016 in the Shimberg Playhouse, located at The Straz Center for the Performing Arts. Thu. - Sat. 8pm, Sun. 4pm
Photo Credit: Jobsite Theater

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