The audience of TIME STANDS STILL are welcomed into the home of Sarah and James, and into the rawness of relationships between physically and emotionally injured people; internal and external conflict, and naivety conversing with jaded worldliness. The Tap Gallery is currently home to a robust innovative production of Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Don Margulies’ Tony award nominated play.
Sarah, a photo-journalist, and her boyfriend, James, a war-correspondent, are passionate about reporting on the world war zones. The play opens with them back home in Brooklyn, ‘grounded’ by injuries sustained in the Middle East. In their damaged condition, they attempt to regain domesticity which is starkly contrasted to their tales of chaos and danger in Iraq. James circumnavigates Sarah’s crutches as he attempts to cushion her and cover his sense of guilt. He had returned to the United States before Sarah’s accident, after suffering a breakdown.
It is a visit from their good friend Richard, Sarah’s former flame and mentor with his new, much younger girlfriend, Mandy which highlights the cultural gap of the naive public at home and the battle-scarred couple. Trivial and tacky, Mandy, fights hard to assert her right to stand for joy and marital tradition against the tapestry of bleakness and horror. Richard insists that the relationship isn’t just a matter of a middle-aged guy chasing younger women. Sarah snaps back: “There’s young, and there’s embryonic.”
Existential issues are raised: is it legitimate to “build a career on the suffering of strangers”; to what extent can we intervene in others lives and with what success; can the world of destruction and devastation ever yield to a relaxed comfortable life.
As director, Claudia Barrie presides over a strong team. All the actors deliver strong convincing performances. Laura Djanegara as the guileless Mandy draws the audience to appreciate her good nature, despite Mandy’s other shortcomings. Matt Minto as James scales up raw ferocity of anger and frustration. This is complemented by Emily J Stewart’s Sarah whose emotional sensitivity sears through their attempted domesticity.
Producer/actor Emily J Stewart succeeds in her aim to “create a performance that was confronting, within a space where the actors could lose themselves and make it so intimate the audience forget they are watching a play but find themselves in someone living room. You have the audience sitting so closely there is no room to hide.”
The set designer, Alison Bradshaw, has skillfully arranged the lounge, study and kitchen within the Tap Gallery Performance space, enabling the music composer and stage manager, Amy Freeman and audience members to blend into the set comfortably.
The score is reflective of Amy’s research of middle-eastern music and both the lighting and the music provide evocative transitions of mood and time. Emily Brayshaw’s costumes allow the actors easy movement whilst accommodating changes in the characters’ physical conditions.
The last provocative and artistic scene shows the photographer with her back to the audience and lens pointing out the window. Can time be frozen in more than a photographic still?!
Thoughtful, compelling, and serious, TIME STANDS STILL is highly recommended.
TIME STANDS STILL Is playing at the Tap Gallery, 259 Riley Street, Surry Hills until Saturday 25th November. Performances are Wednesday to Saturday at 7.30pm and Sunday at 5pm.