Arts & Culture

'Time Stands Still' in Iraq War drama, playing in SLO

Sarah (Sabrina Pratt) James (Brent BC-Harvey) Richard (Gregg Wolff) and Mandy (Alpha O'Neal) have a confrontation in the play "Time Stands Still," playing at San Luis Obispo Little Theatre.
Sarah (Sabrina Pratt) James (Brent BC-Harvey) Richard (Gregg Wolff) and Mandy (Alpha O'Neal) have a confrontation in the play "Time Stands Still," playing at San Luis Obispo Little Theatre.

The brave journalists who cover violent conflicts around the world are the focus of the powerful play “Time Stands Still,” now playing at the San Luis Obispo Little Theatre.

Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Donald Margulies, this contemporary drama focuses on the adrenaline and anguish experienced by two foreign correspondents whose gripping work reveals the extreme damage caused by war. It thoughtfully explores how these journalists cope with being bystanders to such tragedies and examines what compels them to take on such dangerous assignments.

 “Time Stands Still” premiered in 2009 in Los Angeles and ran on Broadway in 2010, garnering two Tony Award nominations.  

The play opens with James (Brent BC-Harvey) and Sarah (Sabrina Pratt) coming home to their loft in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. Sarah has been hospitalized, as evidenced by her crutches, facial bruises and head bandages, and James is trying to make her feel comfortable.

Sarah, a photojournalist, has returned from Iraq after being a victim to a roadside bomb.

James, her reporter boyfriend, left Iraq before Sarah and is suffering from post-traumatic stress. It is obvious that he feels guilty about leaving Sarah alone in such a war-ravaged place. 

At one point, Sarah confesses her feelings about her profession to James and how she “lives off the suffering of strangers” by capturing images of human beings at their worst. 

While Sarah is recuperating, her friend and photo editor, Richard (Gregg Wolff), pays a visit with his new, much younger girlfriend, Mandy (Alpha O’Neal). Outgoing and fun-loving, Mandy is the complete opposite of the serious Sarah.

Through simple but effective dialogue, the two couples share their dreams, doubts and desperation.  Although James and Sarah are unsure about the prospects of a more conventional life, Richard and Mandy are embracing it. 

The intimate nature of the play highlights the joys and tribulations of the two couples as they try to find happiness and meaning to their lives.

The San Luis Obispo Little Theatre production of “Time Stands Still” is directed by award-winning, Seattle-based director Teresa Thuman, who has assembled a very talented ensemble cast with local Central Coast roots. The actors give strong performances and have notable chemistry with each other; it is easy to believe their relationships and struggles.

Pratt balances Sarah’s withdrawn nature with the appropriate amount of sarcasm and subtle wit. BC-Harvey provides James with the right touch of caring, compromise and concern. 

As the wise friend, Wolff conveys a true vulnerability about his love for Mandy and his work. And O’Neal shines with warmth and enthusiasm as Mandy while showing a naive yet poignant outlook on life. 

Set designer David Linfield uses the small stage effectively with a comfortable but stark loft. Middle Eastern music played between scenes adds to the setting and story with sound design by Kevin Harris and Thuman. 

Soft lights and shadows, also designed by Harris, capture the dramatic mood in the loft. 

Randal Sumabat’s costumes fittingly express each character’s personality. For instance, Sarah is dressed in subdued colors while Mandy wears more colorful and stylish clothes.

Don’t shy away from the serious subject matter of “Time Stands Still.” This hugely compelling drama mirrors a true-life story set in modern times.

“Time Stands Still”

7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; through April 26

San Luis Obispo Little Theatre, 888 Morro St., San Luis Obispo

$15 to $26

786-2440 or