Studio Theatre Time Stands StillBy Bob Ashby • Jan 11th, 2012 • Category: Reviews
Studio Theatre, Washington DC
Through February 12th
2:15 with one intermission
Reviewed January 8th, 2011
The title of Donald Margulies’ play, currently running at Studio Theater, reflects a conflict zone photographer’s perception that, when she is looking through the viewfinder at a well-framed shot, all the chaos and destruction around her are banished for a moment. The title becomes ironic for the photographer, Sarah (Holly Twyford), and her partner James (Greg McFadden), as, over time, the assumptions on which they base their relationship change in ways that take them in directions they don’t expect.
Margulies’ characters spend some time debating the ethical dilemmas that photojournalists may face (e.g., snap that picture of the injured child vs. help the child), but these discussions are the least effective, and probably least important, portions of the script. What matters is how Sarah and James deal with wrenching changes in their lives, first from Sarah’s serious injuries while covering the war in Iraq, then from considering the implications of a lifelong commitment, then from the dawning realization that they are following different paths in life.
The play’s second couple–Richard (Don Illian) and Mandy (Laura Harris)–present a simpler, sunnier contrast to the complex and sometimes hard-edged characters of Sarah and James. Richard, Sarah’s and James’ 50ish editor, has fallen happily in love with the 20-something Mandy, to Sarah’s somewhat cynical amusement (“There’s young, and then there’s embryonic”). Harris gracefully takes her character on a convincing journey from good-natured, clueless airhead to radiant young mother, a spokesperson for seeking joy even in a world having much of darkness. Illian complements her as a man reveling in unexpected happiness after a long history of contentious relationships and career striving. His best moment as an actor involves Richard’s worst moment as a character, as he attempts to rationalize spiking a story in which James was deeply invested.
Responding to Sarah’s near-fatal injuries and his own questioning of the adrenaline-fueled, danger-filled lives on which he and Sarah had based their relationship, and with the example of Richard and Mandy’s relationship before him, James comes to value an ordinary, happy life–comfortable apartment, wife, maybe kids some day. McFadden articulates his character’s thoughts effectively, though at times the stakes do not seem as high for him as they should be. For example, when after dealing with some equanimity with Sarah’s admission of having slept with her interpreter in Iraq, James is incensed by the thought that she loved the man as well. McFadden displays James’ anger, to be sure, but he is not shaken to the core as a key premise about Sarah and his relationship with her is called into question.
Sarah is the meaty kind of role that any actor would love to play: she is smart, independent, sarcastically funny, determined, angry, emotionally raw, passionate about her work, capable of tenderness, ultimately incapable of change. Twyford’s performance nails the many dimensions of her character, making Sarah’s ultimate decision about the direction of her life clearly understandable. Her approach to her life is as fixed as the images in her viewfinder, but she has the grace to realize it and accept the consequences.
In a four-character play, ensemble playing among the actors is a must, and this group plays as well together as any good string quartet. Timing of lines and silences and the actors’ non-verbal reactions are impeccable, and the pace of the action is well maintained without being hurried. The subject matter of the play is serious, but there are some well-played humorous moments, and the production’s tone is not allowed to become gloomy.
The detailed New York apartment set is in keeping with the psychological realism of the play, though it seems odd that the residence of a professional photographer has not a single photograph on the walls. Sound, lights, and the other technical aspects of the production are on a level one would expect from a well-established professional company like Studio.
Photos by Scott Suchman
- Sarah: Holly Twyford
- James: Greg McFadden
- Richard: Dan Illian
- Mandy: Laura C. Harris
- Director: Susan Fenichell
- Assistant Director: Jamila Reddy
- Floor Manager: Alicia Sells
- Deputy Floor Manager: Phoebe Duncan
- Associate Technical Director/Master Carpenter Mike Donohue
- Carpenter: Nick Jennison
- Carpentry Apprentice: Nick Tosches
- Scenic Artist: Luciana Stecconi
- Properties Director: Deborah Thomas
- Assistant Lighting Designer: Rob Denton
- Master Electrician/Sound Technician: Adrian Rooney
- Electrics Apprentice/Light Board Operator: Allison Burris
- Electrics Crew: Colin Dieck, Zac Dalton, Frank Miller, Angela Pirko
- Sound Board Operator: Aaron Fisher
- Costume Shop Manager: Brandee Mathies
- Make Up Effects: Skip Smith
- Make Up Technician: Mary Lockwood
- Hair Stylist: Patrick McKee
- Assistant Production Manager: Jennifer Harris
- Company Management Apprentice: Danielle Mohlman
Disclaimer: Studio Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/7511.
Bob Ashby has been an active participant in the Washington-area community theater scene since his arrival in town in 1975.