Review: 'Time Stands Still' at TheatreWorks New Milford

Nancy Sasso Janis

“At what expense does one tell the difficult truths of war?”

 Director Sonnie Osborne (‘Souvenir’) poses that question in her notes about her production of ‘Time Stands Still’ running through August 1 at TheatreWorks New Milford.

The play was written by Donald Margulies, a celebrated playwright who is an adjunct professor of English Theatre Studies at Yale University. It is the story of Sarah, a photojournalist who is recovering from injuries she sustained as a result of a roadside bomb while covering a war zone. Her longtime boyfriend is James, a journalist who feels guilty for not being there when she was injured. They interact with their editor Richard and his much younger girlfriend Mandy, who is the complete opposite of the driven Sarah.

Alicia Dempster took on the leading role of Sarah, the role that was played by the talented actress Laura Linney on Broadway. [In the interest of full disclosure, Ms. Dempster is a contributor to Onstage, although I have never had the pleasure of meeting her, nor have I ever seen her perform before this production.] Usually a director, Ms. Dempster gave an outstanding performance, perhaps because she is a director at heart. She had the ability to make the audience aware of her character’s emotions with a look and navigated the physical healing that Sarah goes through during the play with believability. Kudos to her on an admirable job of bringing Sarah to life.

Aaron Kaplan of Danbury plays the tortured James and this marks his fourth collaboration with Sonnie Osborne. He brings a bit of charm to the role of “Jamie,” who clearly loves Sarah but has begun to question his ability to return to the job of covering conflict. 

As Richard, retired professional actor Will Jeffries makes his TheatreWorks debut in this play, but he has regularly performed at several shoreline community theaters. He gave a strong performance as the photo editor who adores both of his contributors. TheatreWorks board member Erin Shaughnessy (who I remembered as Gloria in ‘Boeing, Boeing’) gave a memorable performance as the guileless event planner who grows on many levels as the drama unfolds.

At the risk of repeating myself, TheatreWorks has come up with yet another outstanding set for this production. Scott Wychynski and Richard Pettibone have designed an intricately detailed and character-appropriate walk-up apartment complete with a sliding door, lots of brick and a dining table with plumbing-inspired supports. Glenn Couture painted and dressed this wonderful set and both set designers designed the lighting to show it off. Costumes by Joe Russo and the cast were pretty nondescript and appropriate; Mr. Russo also designed the convincing makeup.

 Aaron Kaplan as James, left, Alicia Dempster as Sarah, Will Jeffries as Richard and Erin Shaughnessy as Mandy. Photo: Rich Pettibone

 Aaron Kaplan as James, left, Alicia Dempster as Sarah, Will Jeffries as Richard and Erin Shaughnessy as Mandy. Photo: Rich Pettibone

I recommend this beautifully written play that is both smart and moving; I immediately cared about the well-drawn characters and wanted to know what would happen to them. I did not expect to laugh a much as I did. I loved hearing Rush’s “Time Stands Still” after the performance. There is some strong language that helps the piece but may offend some. Remaining performances are July 17, 18, 24, 25, 26, 31 and Aug. 1. Curtain time is 8:00pm on Fridays and Saturdays with a 2:00pm matinee on Sunday, July 26. Tickets for all shows are $23 for reserved seating.