Encore Michigan

Open Book keeps ‘Time Stands Still’ very sharp

Review May 13, 2018 David Kiley

TRENTON, Mich.–In Time Stands Still, by Donald Margulies, we have what I consider to be an old fashioned play, but one that is thoroughly rooted in modern relationships.

The play, now playing at Open Book Theatre here, is old fashioned in that it doesn’t pull any tricks. We don’t get multiple points of view from the same people about the same events. There is no rear projection or multi-media. The play relies on terrific writing and a talented creative group to put it on.

Sarah Goodwin (Krista Schafer Ewbank) is a big-time magazine photographer who has just returned from Iraq having been the victim of a roadside bomb. She is hobbled with a leg brace and shows multiple shrapnel scars on her face. Her boyfriend of eight years, James (David Galido), a free-lance writer of somewhat lesser star power, returned from Iraq a month or so earlier suffering from PTSD, is a bit too much up in Sarah’s grille, but means well as he wants to help her through her recovery. Richard (Robert Schorr) is Sarah’s editor and close friend to her and James, and he is sporting a much younger girlfriend, Mandy (Anna Doyle).

This has the feel of a real “New Yorky” play. The three of them are in the heart of the city’s cognoscenti, with all the action taking place in a one-bedroom apartment designed by Eric Niece. Chatter is very sharp, with shots of sarcasm and gruffness, but also humor as the sarcasm lands on one of the characters.

There are multiple relationships at work here. Richard and Sarah were involved 20 years earlier. Now, he is dating and planning a baby with the much younger and simpler Mandy who is an event planner. James and Sara are together, but there is an unseen member of that relationship who will affect the action from the grave. Sarah has a relationship with her work and her cause, and she literally wears the scars of her devotion. At bottom, this play is about people finding and defending what they really want.

Ms. Schafer Ewbank, who is also the artistic director of Open Book, turns in a seamless and compelling performance as Sarah. And her choice of this play, as with the plays she has chosen for the theater in the last few seasons, shows great commitment to quality. Mr. Galido nails the angsty, unsung free-lance journalist character. Mr. Schorr again shows his chops and versatility, delivering on the sarcasm and conflict that any big magazine editor lives with–beat up from fighting for space for worthy stories about suffering people that often get shrunk or crowded out all together by fluffier, more mainstream stories readers find easier to digest. Ms. Doyle is also very strong as the younger, guileless member of this salon. She can’t understand why Sarah would rather take the picture of a dying baby than take it to the nearest hospital. Her affection for Richard and her ability to hold her own and stand her ground with what she believes in without it slipping into stereotype is very deftly played.

Director Wendy Katz Hiller has terrific dialogue writing to work with, but she also had to build the right cast of actors to bring it to life. The whole production sparkles from open to close.

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Week of 12/4/2023

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