Saturday, October 3, 2015

Review: 'Time Stands Still'

A deeply-felt "Time Stands Still," a success last season on Broadway, unfolds in a production at the Delaware Theatre Company in Wilmington. It's a co-production with Ambler's Act II Playhouse. Inquirer theater critic Howard Shapiro reviews from Delaware.

Review: 'Time Stands Still'

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Susan McKey as a war-scarred photojournalist and Kevin Kelly as her significant other in "Time Stands Still" at Delaware Theatre Company. Photo by Matt Urban.

By Howard Shapiro

The issue in Donald Margulies’ engrossing drama Time Stands Still is not whether you can come home again. The issue is whether you can stay there.

In a beautifully wrought production at Delaware Theatre Company in Wilmington, the play comes off as both realistic and deeply felt by its characters. Time Stands Still is about a complex woman — a news photographer (Susan McKey) much more at home on a battlefield than in her real home in Brooklyn, which she shares with a writer (Kevin Kelly) who often works abroad with her.

They’ve been traumatized — he’s been home getting his head together after an overseas incident, to use the sanitized word we apply to deadly chaos, and she’s now home with a head and body full of shrapnel from an exploding roadside bomb. The play begins with her arrival in Brooklyn.

Whether a woman who thrives on being in the midst of war, famine and genocide — of danger — could ever really come home for good to a conventional life is a question that Margulies’ smart play raises, and it also illuminates a quandary: For a photographer, what responsibility comes with being in the middle of the action?

Time Stands Still did very well on Broadway the last two seasons, produced by the Manhattan Theatre Club and others including Bud Martin, the Broadway and London producer who is also the artistic director of Ambler’s Act II Playhouse. In Wilmington, Martin is directing the play with an eye for its everyday rhythms and its smooth storyline about these two journalists, their editor (played by playwright Bruce Graham) and the editor’s young love (Megan McDermott), a wholly naive voice of reason.

After the Delaware run, this production resumes at Act II Playhouse in mid-February. There’s a good chance the play will move on to London’s West End.

McKey, a long-time actress and part of the People’s Light & Theatre repertory company in Malvern, has made her own the role of the photographer that was so thoughtfully played on Broadway by Laura Linney. McKey’s woman is less icy, more comfortable with the world outside the suffering one her lenses capture, just as much as she is uneasy about making a life there. “Where are my cameras?” is among the first lines her character speaks after she limps, supported by a crutch, into her apartment. “So what happens tomorrow?” is the next.

The answer to the first question’s easy: The cameras are safely bagged a few feet away and by her side, where they must always be. The second question, what happens tomorrow, is one only she can answer.

I can attest first-hand that Time Stand Still offers a real feel for a journalist’s sense that documenting the world’s stories is a way to eventually change it for the better, or at least to appropriate its mystery. Margulies’ four characters make the various facets of those notions come alive — ideas that all four actors in this production run with.

Contact staff writer Howard Shapiro at 215-854-5727,, or #philastage on Twitter. Read his recent work at Hear his reviews at the Classical Network,

Time Stands Still: Presented by Delaware Theatre Company and and Act II Playhouse at the Delaware Theatre Company, 200 Water St. Wilmington, through Feb. 5. Tickets: $35-$49. Information: 302-594-1100 or The production will resume at Act II Playhouse, 56 E. Butler Pike, Ambler, Feb. 14 through March 11. Tickets: $22-$33. Information: or 215-654-0200.

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About this blog

Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of five books about modern and contemporary drama, and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). She was recently named by American Theatre magazine "one of the twelve most influential critics in America."

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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