Review: 'Time Stands Still'

By Howard Shapiro
INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

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.

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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.

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, hshapiro@phillynews.com, or #philastage on Twitter. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/howardshapiro. Hear his reviews at the Classical Network, www.wwfm.org.
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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 www.delawaretheatre.org. The production will resume at Act II Playhouse, 56 E. Butler Pike, Ambler, Feb. 14 through March 11. Tickets: $22-$33. Information: http://act2playhouse.org or 215-654-0200.

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