This past Friday evening, Sierra Repertory Theatre opened their newest show, Time Stands Still. It is a poignant, relatively newer work that just by the script I could tell is a very difficult piece to cast and stage effectively. SRT brought in guest director Scott Gilbert to take the reins on this work, and that was just the beginning of great choices regarding this production. The foursome of actors that were cast bring a relateability to this piece that any and every audience member can connect to. Seeing this show opens up some very real emotions that Americans more than likely do not normally deal with. I commend Sierra Rep for taking a risk with this intense piece. It is theatre like this that modern audiences should be seeing.
Time Stands Still follows two couples as it goes in depth into each of their lives and into their relationships. James and Sarah are together and are travelling journalists. James is a writer who captures global concerns, specifically those from 3rd world regions. Sarah is a photojournalist that captures the same things. However, Sarah recently just experienced a car bomb accident rendering her physically handicapped for a while, and having several scars amongst her body. Our other couple, Mandy and Richard are quite different. Richard is the magazine editor that Sarah and James works for, and Mandy is his new, young girlfriend. They are given time to prove that their relationship is more than just a mid-life crisis/gold digger bond. Tensions are raised when Sarah decides after rehabilitation to head back to war zones with Richard disagreeing and James being too protective over his partner. As the audience finds out more and more of Sarah’s past, troubles arise, jealousy exposed and cause each couple to grow more in their knowledge of each other. A powerful piece that author Donald Margulies has carefully crafted and structured in order to raise questions and challenge the minds of those blessed to see this production.
Joe Gately (James) and Stasha Surdyke (Sarah) play our leading journalism couple. What I appreciated most about Gately’s performance was that he believably could turn his emotions on a dime. The account of his shell shock experience of seeing several girls killed right in front of him was an excellent display of his emotional range. Comically, his Act 2 opening rant regarding ignorant people who go see theatre was favorably ironic and brilliant in its writing and delivery. Gately is able to balance confidence with dark memory while still trying to be a warm partner to Sarah. Surdyke plays a strong witted female companion with a very in-depth performance that properly exposes every nuance you would expect from this character. She has a false confidence front displaying on the stage that shatters down in her Act 2 fraud account of photographing a grieving mother against her wishes. It opened up Surdyke’s tender range while she lets her guard down for a few beautiful but tender moments. The two of these talents bring a tumultuous chemistry that plays well on stage.
(Joe Gately (James) and Stasha Surdyke (Sarah); Photo credit: Rich Miller Photography)
Our second couple brings some great realistic humor to the piece. Company veteran Ty Smith (Richard) and Lindsey Graham (Mandy) are instrumentally used as the “other” couple. Graham is the embodiment of your typical Gen Y girl, but with a more honest naive nature. Her bright personality and high-pitched tone brought a higher level of energy to the characters she was interacting with and to the show as a whole. Smith plays an effective warm, but strong-willed grandfatherly figure to his three co-stars. Smith’s ability to get a rousing laugh from just a look, sip of coffee and delivery of one “f-bomb” after first introducing Mandy to James and Sarah showcased his mature talent.
Tecnhincal aspects were a hit all around. The set (Dennis Jones) had a wonderful modern beauty to it. Bine Bieker’s costumes were a step up in detail than what I am used to seeing. She properly matched the rugged lifestyles of James and Sarah with earthy tones in their dress. Mandy has bright, matching colors all the time, even as a pregnant wife. Richard had the proper sweater and collared shirt to catapult the sweet age difference between he and his young love. I was so attracted to Scott Gilbert’s directing style. It properly compliments Margulies script. It was strong with having each scene ending in a snapshot sound effect and lighting cue, having the title of the compilation book that Sarah and James put together be the title of the play, and most effective of having the final scene being a defeated yet emotionally persevering Sarah standing with her camera out ready to shoot.
As mentioned before I believe the SRT team took a risk by selecting this in-your-face riff on American citizens and American journalism. It is one of the most natural stories I have heard and its material is more than easy to relate to. It will challenge your values and how you perceive this country as well war zone countries being highlighted in the news. Time Stands Still plays through October 28th at the East Sonora Theatre, so leave the standing still to the actors and jump to the link listed below or call 209-532-3120 to buy some tickets. Go see this show!