Review: TIME STANDS STILL at AstonRep Theatre Company

Review: TIME STANDS STILL at AstonRep Theatre Company

Pictured: Robert Tobin and Sara Pavlak McGuire. Photo by Emily Schwartz. 

By Abigail Trabue

According to a 2013 article from the Committee to Protect Journalists, a record number of journalists were killed between 2003-2011. At least 150 in total during the U.S. led invasion of Iraq, and 54 other media personnel.

In a 2006 study entitled THE PSYCHOLOGICAL HAZARDS OF WAR, neuropsychiatrist Anthony Feinstein concludes that individuals in war journalism “are to a high degree biologically primed for this type of activity…Individuals who eschew the nine-to-five routine and comfort of a predictable office job for the drama and excitement of the battlefield.” Feinstein goes on to say that most journalists are not schooled in how to react to violence, theoretically making them more vulnerable to the aftermath of violence, thus increasing their risk of developing PTSD or depression upon returning home. 

So, what happens when you take two journalists from the front lines and plop them down in their cozy loft to recover from their internal and external wounds?

This snapshot in time is the subject of David Margulies’ thought provoking and witty play TIME STANDS STILL, and in the hands of AstonRep Theatre Company, Margulies’ story is solid and alive. 

Directed by Georgette Verdin, TIME STANDS STILL is given just the right touch of light and dark to balance the hurt, the memories, the decisions, the frustration, the joy and the confusion that confronts long-time couple Sarah (Sara Pavlak McGuire), a photojournalist, and James (Robert Tobin), a foreign correspondent, as they try to move forward together and individually. 

In McGuire, AstonRep has a strong Sarah. She’s accessible, genuine, with a touch of impossible. She’s real, and we need Sarah to feel real in order to understand the choices she made and will make. McGuire moves through her physical injuries with realistic reactions. What she brings to the physical life of Sarah allows us to see the danger war journalists face, and in such an intimate space the make-up applied to represent the damage done by the shrapnel is realistic and well thought out. 

With James, Tobin has the challenge of playing a man who’s PTSD will pop up at a moment’s notice. For people living with PTSD, the triggers are unpredictable. You live your life with a cloud hanging over you that you can’t seem to absorb or move out from underneath. And while time heals all wounds, and the cloud will shrink, the shock and trauma of what you’ve experienced never really leaves you. Tobin has the air of a man who never really feels comfortable in his skin, as those who’ve suffered from PTSD will understand all too well.

As we move through the life of the play we come to realize James is looking for an escape and Sarah is looking for a way back. Sarah is Feinstein’s study journalist. She needs and craves the world she left, and pushing her gently along is her editor James (Rob Frankel). James and his girlfriend Mandy (Kirra Silver) give us the humor needed to help lighten Sarah and James’ world.

But in Mandy, we get the perspective of someone who doesn’t eat, breath and sleep war journalism. She’s the juxtaposition needed in order to ask the questions, “why do we feel the need to have a ringside seat every time history unfolds? Should we be photographing a woman holding her dying baby in her arms? Would we still feel outraged if the graphic images weren’t there?” I don’t know the answer to any of those questions, however, it’s because of  Mandy’s reactions to their world, that I find myself still wondering and searching for an answer long after the show has ended.

TIME STANDS STILL runs through June 11th. For more information visit astonrep.com.  

About author

Abigail Trabue

Abigail has worked as an actor/director in Chicago for over ten years, and along with husband Jason Epperson founded Lotus Theatricals in 2015, and PerformInk Chicago and Kansas City in 2016 (where she serves as Managing Editor of both publications). When not talking shop, Abigail is raising three padawans with Jason, drinking lots of coffee, converting school buses into RV's, and eating all the foods at Disney World. You can find her on Twitter @AbigailTrabue

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