By Xavier Husser
New York, N.Y.
On Thursday, the Princeton Summer Theater presented a production of “Time Stands Still,” originally written by Donald Margulies and directed by Emma Watt, a recent Princeton graduate.
The plot of the play centers on the struggling relationship between Sarah Goodwin, a photographer, and James Dodd, a journalist who is dedicated to making their tumultuous relationship work. Secrets, affairs and lies had already disrupted the emotions and lives of the faulty middle-aged couple.
In addition to these situations, both protagonists are dealing with the aftermath of Sarah’s accident, in which she survived an explosion while she was working in Iraq. The actors—including Brad Wilson, who plays James Dodd—express emotions so convincingly that the audience seemed very empathetic toward the characters.
The play mixes comedy, suspense and tragedy into a modern production that can relate to a wide range of individuals.
Another sub-plot is the tension between Mandy Bloom, who plays a vital role in conveying the main theme of the play, and the older characters. Mandy is a caricature of the stereotypically callow youth who is ignorant of the outside world, and her role adds some comic relief to the heavy drama.
A memorable scene occurs when Sarah shows Richard and Mandy graphic pictures of a woman and infant killed by an explosion. Completely horrified at the desensitized reactions of the two journalists—who have experience reporting from war zones—Mandy responds by saying, “That poor little boy. How can you just stand there and not help them?”
Mandy asks the characters, and also directs this question toward the audience. Her lines question what their actual roles—as photographers, journalists or even witnesses—should be. Originally, Sarah responds, “The camera is there to record life—not to change it.”
However, later in the play, Sarah comes to a realization that she “built a career on the suffering of strangers I’ll never see again.” With lines such as “you just see the misery in life. I wish you could just see the joy,” Mandy’s character could be used as a symbol for innocence and the pursuit of happiness rather than ignorance.
“Time Stands Still” is a phenomenal play about modern ideas and dilemmas. The characters respect the views of ordinary citizens and embody the emotional state of individuals affected by international conflicts.
The play is a dynamic story in which the characters evolve in search of happiness and resolution. Sarah Paton, the actress who plays Mandy, offered insight into her character’s aspiration, which is “growing old with her really smart, intelligent husband.”
By the end of the play, each character finds joy with the support of various people or activities. The play ends on an optimistic and romantic note that instills hope and insight in the audience.