AISLE SAY Philadelphia


by Donald Margulies
Directed by Bud Martin
ACT II Playhouse
56 East Butler Avenue, Ambler, PA 19002
(215) 654-0200 /

Reviewed by Claudia Perry

The measure of a great play is in the depth and breadth of the emotional range it calls upon its actors to explore. Time Stands Still a co-production with the Delaware Theatre Company and currently running at Act II Playhouse until March 11th, more than amply stacks up to this criteria. The Philadelphia-area premiere of this engrossing 2010-11 Broadway drama by Donald Margulies has been given a beautifully crafted production under the deft hands of director, Bud Martin.

Director Bud Martin first saw “Time Stands Still” when it was originally produced at The Manhattan Theatre Club in March of 2010. He became one of its commercial producers bringing the play to Broadway during the 2010/11 season where it won a Tony nomination.

Sarah (Susan McKey), a photojournalist and James (Kevin Kelly), a foreign correspondent are anything but a conventional couple. When Sarah is seriously wounded in Iraq by a roadside bomb, she comes home to Brooklyn to recuperate. James, who himself has had a nervous breakdown from his own war experiences, helps Sarah get back on her feet. But tensions arise when it becomes apparent that Sarah needs to return to the deadly chaos while James desperately yearns to escape it. The play not only raises the question of how do people adjust from living in a war zone back into a peaceful existence. It also asks, “What is a photographer’s/journalist’s moral obligation when witnessing the atrocities of war, genocide and famine?” as Sarah is frightening in her cynical determination to return to doing what she does best, which is to, “get the picture.” From the moment she enters their small apartment with her shattered leg, broken arm and visible facial scars, we can see her violent frustration fomenting her drive to return to work. On the other hand, we see James’s visible relief at being able to get back to a “normal” existence. He enjoys being able to help the woman he loves, who’s never been so helpless before. Perhaps this marital dynamic struck a chord with me – as I can see it in my own relationship. There’s the worker and there’s the bon vivant and a lot of times these two tendencies are at odds with one another, but never as much as in this emotional roller coaster ride of a play. Rounding out the cast nicely is Megan McDermott as Mandy who has the biggest arc in the piece. Mandy grows from a perky, naïve, idealistic, not so well informed Event Planner into a confident, caring, nurturing, young mother. And as Sarah’s magazine photo editor and Megan’s boyfriend/husband, Bruce Graham turns in a very winning performance. It cannot be overstated that the ensemble acting amidst these four seasoned performers is really a joy to watch.

The set design by Dirk Durosette is a diligently realistic apartment interior with a functioning sink and a coffee maker that brews coffee the actors can actually drink. We see a partial skyline of Williamsburg, Brooklyn out the series of small paned windows framing the back wall. In one scene, there is rain running down the panes to great effect. But for me – the best detail was the bicycle in the corner which says “city apartment” like nothing else.

An odd thing happened at the Sunday matinee, which I attended. In a scene that was about three quarters of the way through the piece, we could hear the ticking of a clock. It wasn’t too loud, just a continuous tick tock in the background. I thought it was intentional (as did other audience members) – well the name of the play is “Time Stands Still”, and obviously time was running out for the character’s relationship, etc. But apparently it was not part of the play and was driving the actors mad, because in the dark during a scene change Mr. Kelly very courteously asked that whoever had the watch or mechanism that was making the sound to please silence it. Now, no watch that I know could make a sound that loud and I highly doubt that someone walked into the theatre with a big clock – so of course it was somebody’s cell phone! But I tell you –even somebody’s stupid cell phone didn’t ruin this theatrical experience for me.

If you haven’t seen a cogent, compelling play in a long time – here’s your chance. It will not disappoint. For tickets call 215-654-0200 or long onto Act II’s website at

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