The most culturally relevant modern dramatic play takes to the stage at Everyman Theatre as they launch their 2012-2013 season with Time Stands Still. Written by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Donald Margulies and Directed by Jason Loewith,Time Stands Still captures the essence of humanity through two vastly different lenses by tracking a relationship through a literal warzone.
The story of Sarah, a photographer, and Jamie, a journalist, unfolds around their passion for reporting from the world’s most deadliest warzones.Their worlds are turned upside-down when a bomb in Iraq sends Sarah home with a new perspective on life, shaking up their lives and forcing them to recognize their addiction to the adrenaline and chaos as well as distinguish the importance of their work from the importance of their lives. This compelling fast-paced drama is gripping and shocking and will leave you with a great foreboding sense of the chaos that is tethered to human nature.
Enhancing the intensity of this production is the uniquely designed and perfectly executed soundtrack. Sound Designer Veronika Vorel manages to wind moments of tension into the beginning and end of each scene with the sounds of planes, photo camera flashes, and other sounds that startle the audience into dawning realizations of deeper key elements in the plot. Coupled with Lightning Designer Jay Herzog the team create an epic on-stage thunderstorm during act II that is reflected through the loft apartment with impeccably timed cues of thunder echoing off the rain that sluices down the grimy square-panel windows. Every element added to this production heightens the senses and adds a layer of emotions to this already densely packed performance.
Director Jason Loewith achieves perfection of dramatic tension in this production by honing and finely tuning moments of silence and conflict among the actors. Loewith brings a talented cast of four to the stage, each fitted like a hand to an evening glove with their character for moments of volatile compassion that erupt with a fierce force throughout the show. He guides his actors through a series of emotional mountains; making every build from moment to the next increase exponentially with emotional intensity.
There are no flat moments in this production and the interactions between the characters are always driven with clear intentions and purposes.
The story is formed around Sarah (Beth Hylton) and Jamie’s (Eric M. Messner) long 8-year romantic involvement as it weaves their lives together through the war torn and devastated countries of the world. Hylton and Messner are two convincing actors with raw emotions and a keen sense of dramatic work. The pair make an excellent vessel for floating unspoken tension between them; moments of silence become so tense that they are almost visible. Their relationship flows naturally, one provoking the other simply with their banter, forcing the other to think differently or see things in a new light.
The relationships that they share not just with each other but the other two actors are crafted in such a way as to make them truly multi-dimensional and complex. Richard (James Whalen) is the best friend but also the editor of the magazine where they both work. This creates an instant bro-mance between Messner and Whalen while simultaneously adding a layer of unease between them. And Mandy Nicole Moore as Whalen’s midlife crisis girlfriend, Mandy, adds an element of eccentric lightheartedness to this dark drama.
Moore plays a character who at first appears to only have one dimension; surface qualities similar to an obnoxious Chihuahua mixed with the stereotypical ditzy dumb blonde. Her bubbly nature and sprightly attitude make her a fresh breath of air to the downtrodden and more serious characters. She’s an inferno of obnoxious blazing her way through the scene completely oblivious to the emotional collateral damage her perky personality is causing. But as the play develops we experience the deeper levels of Moore’s character, discovering that she is the voice of reality and the average human being. Her realistic approach to war torn crisis is something everyone can identify with and when she expresses these opinions it is both a shameful realization for the audience just how much she is the modern day ‘everyman.’
Moore’s character is the perfect foil to Hylton’s in many ways. Hylton is cold and dead inside, forcing herself to see the world only through the lens in which her camera sees things. This is not to say she is without emotion. Her emotions run higher than the average human, with moments of explosion that really send shockwaves out to the audience. Hylton is also the desperate drive of humanity to see the horrors and the chaos and force change to come about through her actions, through her exposure of these atrocities and that mentality warps her character into something dark and ugly, which is physically manifested in the battle scars she wears from an explosion.
Hylton’s performance is stunning; the moment when she recalls her personal tragedy while in the warzone of Iraq brings the audience to a dead silence, a harrowing and humbling moment to absorb. Her cavalier and blasé attitude toward her near death experience is a great catalyst for Messner’s fury as the event appears to have changed her very little as opposed to the way it completely distorted his outlook on life. Messner creates a worthy opponent going head to head with Hylton in scene after scene of intense arguments, several of which lead to stunning expressions of his anger and frustrations to the point of frightening the audience with his sheer presence.
The determination of these actors is second to none. Their performances are nothing short of moving and breathtaking and will live you with a good deal to contemplate as you reflect upon all that you witness. It captures the essence of lives torn apart and put back together and everything in-between.
Running Time: Two hours with one intermission.
Time Stands Still plays through Sunday October 7, 2012 at Everyman Theatre – 1727 N. Charles Street in Baltimore, MD. Tickets are available for purchase by calling the box office at (410) 752-2208 and are available online.