Review: "Time Stands Still" at South Carolina Rep

Special to the Packet and GazetteNovember 3, 2011 

'Time Stands Still," which opened Oct. 20 at the South Carolina Repertory Co. on Hilton Head Island, has been enjoying an impressive run.

The play is a triumph in economy and a fitting production for the repertory company's intimate, compact theater on Beach City Road. The first-rate production, from start to finish, is intelligent, emotional and often funny. The show ends Sunday.

"Time Stands Still" was written by Pulitzer Prize-winner Donald Margulies. The repertory production is directed by Chip Egan, who has a long list of directing credits and has done admirable work as both director and actor for the company.

The script is brought to life by four polished actors: Blake White, now in his fifth season with the company; Ellie Clark, whose performances we've enjoyed a number of times there, too; Daniel Murray, a member of Actor's Equity Association who has appeared widely throughout the Southeast and taught acting; and Kaylee Gonzalez, a production studies major at Clemson University who has appeared in more than 20 shows.

The story unfolds as we watch the four come together in the most involving way. Loaded with dramatic substance about a variety of conflicts -- war and global issues, moral challenges -- "Time Stands Still" commands the audience's full attention and leaves it fully entertained.

Clark portrays Sarah, a photojournalist who has just returned to the New York apartment she shares with her writer partner, James, played by White. She is there to heal after a serious injury sustained while on assignment in Iraq. Sarah, the picture of independence and principle, is being cared for by James.

James also had been in Iraq for a while but suffered a nervous breakdown. We sense the conflict right away as Sarah is obviously uncomfortable with his exaggerated attentions, and James, in an effort to conceal his guilt, compounds their discomfort by overplaying issues of her physical challenges.

Adding balance to the plot is Richard, played by Murray. He is an old friend of both Sarah and James. Mandy, played by Gonzalez, is his new girlfriend whom Sarah and James had not met. Richard is the photo editor at a successful news publication, and Mandy is a young, vivacious event planner who adds an intriguing layer to the story.

We are invited, through the content of Margulies' characteristic conversations, to observe as tensions rise. He moves us forward by way of the most compelling interactions among the four, from off-handed bickering to hard-core confrontations. Personal and professional values as they relate to war, global issues, quality of life, lifestyle, trust and integrity are the subjects of some of the most compelling dialogue. Clearly, Margulies, who won his Pulitzer for "Dinner With Friends" several years before writing "Time Stands Still," has created complex characters.

As the play comes to a close, and there have been a host of life-altering events, we, in the audience, are still dealing with the conflicts experienced by Sarah and James, and their response to the challenges they face. Even as we watch the final scene, we remain engaged in their futures.

Everything fit and flowed smoothly, much of that due to director and scenic designer Chip Egan, lighting designer Tony Penna, sound designer Bryan Rothrock and stage manager and property designer Diane Egan. Costume design and assistant stage-managing responsibilities were handled by Jan Haskell-Mohr and Pat Haskell. Matt Leckenbusch is in charge of makeup and technical direction.

As an aside, the company is celebrating its 20th year. It has been a gift to Hilton Head.

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