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October 10, 2013

Local actors at Dobama Theatre turn in powerful performances

By Rebecca Hannan

The impact of graphic images of war, as seen in the pages of newspapers and magazines, fade away shortly after turning the page. But for those who create such images, the impact lingers and is brought to life in Dobama Theatre’s powerful production of “Time Stands Still.”

Photo Courtsey Dobama.orgJust as news reports bring the war into your living room, “Time Stands Still” puts you in the small Brooklyn loft of its main characters. Smell the coffee brewing, hear the TV blaring and sit eye level to the performers as this intimate setting prepares you for the personal journey that is about to unfold.

War reporter James Dodd (David Bugher) bursts onto the stage and frantically prepares the apartment for his long-term girlfriend, photographer Sarah Goodwin (Heather Anderson Boll), who has been seriously injured by a road-side bomb while on the job in Iraq. Sarah struggles to adjust to being at home and a visit from friend and editor Richard Erlich (Peter Aylward) and his young girlfriend Mandy Bloom (Llewie Nunez) doesn’t help. Stable, secure and in love, Richard and Mandy represent the kind of lifestyle that James wants, replacing the chaos that left him traumatized. Rest isn’t an option for Sarah, as she seeks recovery through returning to her job.

This is not a story about war, but playwright Donald Margulies has written a powerful story about the impact of battle on the human psyche and the toll it takes on the relationships of those who fight and cover war. That is why the tiny enclosure of the Dobama Theatre is the perfect location to see it. When you literally trip over the stage as you walk to your seats, you are immediately brought into the world Margulies manufactures and are fully engaged in the conversation. As the story plays out, you become invested in its outcome and care deeply about its participants.

Director Nathan Motta and his team of designers make sure you do, for there is a conscious effort to make the audience feel as if it is sitting on a chair in the living room and watching this personal drama unfold behind closed doors.

This is facilitated by very authentic performances turned in by the cast in general, but Boll and Bugher in particular. You can feel the tension building between their Sarah and James, as her energy, edgy personality and strong sense of self clashes with his progressive slide into depression and the desperate need for domesticity.

“The camera’s there to record life, not change it,” Sarah says in defense of the stoic professionalism with which she captures the horrific images of war. But what she fails to realize, and what the audience comes to understand through this moving play and this marvelous production of it, is that life is forever changed simply by bearing witness to those images.