By James Foritano
BOSTON – “Time Stands Still” for this observer, stood far too still. Or, perhaps the dramatic arc lifted off the ground in a place where I wasn’t, and I never caught up.
The play opens with James Dodd, played by Barlow Adamson, and Sarah Goodwin, played by Laura Latreille, in the living room of their Williamsburg Loft in Brooklyn. Somehow the symbolism seems just right, since the inside is furnished Yuppie tasteful but the large loft window admits a cloudy light definitely of this unredeemed, pre-gentrified world.
James and Sarah, though a successful, upwardly mobile couple, in tune with their domestic interiors, also emit a murky light, as though their souls have been climbing rougher slopes than many of their ambitious peers. And they have. Both are photojournalists back from war coverage in a violent Muslim world, licking their wounds, “enjoying” the R&R of friends and recovery.
Their wounds, though, are fatefully different. For Sarah, the wound in her leg is something to bear, to tend in its clumsy cast while it heals. It’s not her; only the way she gets around. She’s impatient to be back in the action; she gives the impression that she’d be quite adequate to dragging herself across battlefields if only she could keep her lens clear, her equipment free of the ground.
James’ “wound,” on the other hand, is of a different nature. James flew from home to bring a wounded Sarah back from the hellacious ground of her chosen profession. To James, Sarah’s wound is hers, not some replaceable extension. To James, Sarah belongs more to himself as her lover, than to that murky treacherous world seeping in through the panes of their loft window.
As James acts the anxious spouse, Sarah resists every move to, as she interprets it, ‘coddle’ her injury. He is threatening Sarah’s picture of herself; Sarah threatens to dissolve James’ hope of some lasting domestic felicity enjoyed by them both. And so, the fireworks.
Sarah’s snapping elevates to screaming. James is much more patient, but with a growing testiness. Things look bleak to him and to Sarah as they become aware that each is uncompromising in their new stance towards life.
Underlining this shift of loyalties is a visit from an editor/friend who has shifted his late-life “girlfriend” from an uber-serious bluestocking to a not insubstantial but definitely “lighter,” or at least different, model of woman. Mandy Bloom, played by Erica Spyres, is a professional event planner, and the event she’s now planning is marriage to Richard Ehrlich, played by Jeremiah Kissel. Richard is bashfully, but full-heartedly cooperative.
No longer his old warhorse younger self, Richard is making decisions both professionally and personally more on the side of “go-along-get-along” than “damn the torpedoes…full speed ahead!”
The two relationships quote from and comment upon each other: both include angst as well as a slow but steady commitment towards a new stance; but James and Sarah’s change of life-style is more wrenching since it involves both a professional as well as a personal about-face.
Now, back to the “dramatic arc” piece. Although both couples play out their different shifts from an edgy to a ‘safer’ lifestyle with nuance, I saw their stances towards life and each other, not as evolving in unexpected ways, but as set pieces twisting in the cruel, but monotone, winds of change.
For me, the cussing, cursing, yelling before the first intermission — indeed it seemed all sound and fury from the ‘git-go’ — signaled a mortally wounded relationship. A relationship, well described, but a fait accompli even as I warmed my theater seat, wriggling to watch fine people realize the desperation of their struggles.
(Don Margulies’ “Time Stand Still” continues through March 17 at the Lyric Stage Company of Boston, 140 Clarendon Street, Boston. For tickets, call (617) 585-5678).