• Theater Review: Emotional war wounds go deep
    By Jim Lowe
     | February 01,2013
    Lindsay Raymondjack Photo

    Robert Harte is James and Chris Caswell is Sarah, both journalists damaged by war, in Vermont Stage Company’s production of “Time Stands Still” at the Flynn Center in Burlington.

    War’s effects on those who observe it can be as tragic as the effects on the soldiers who fight it. In Donald Margulies’ powerful drama “Time Stands Still,” a photographer and a reporter attempt to piece back together their lives after being damaged in very different ways.

    Vermont Stage Company, Burlington’s full-season professional ensemble, opened a deeply felt and emotionally riveting production of “Time Stands Still” on Wednesday at FlynnSpace that was not without its light and humorous moments.

    In this contemporary tale, James has just brought home his girlfriend of eight years, Sarah, a photojournalist who is recovering from serious wounds suffered in a war in the Middle East. James is clearly devoted, cloyingly so, in part because he had had a breakdown in the same war earlier and left her there.

    Into this scene comes their close mutual friend, Richard, a magazine photo editor, who has his new, much younger girlfriend in tow. James and Sarah’s response to Mandy is polite but somewhat disdainful of her seeming superficiality.

    James and Sarah both poke fun at Richard’s new relationship but gradually reveal themselves to be much more troubled than the new couple, and one much more so than the other. Their attempt to sort out their lives and relationship powerfully delivers the message that war, indeed, harms everyone.

    Fortunately, it also delivers hope.

    Vermont Stage’s production, deftly directed by Gregory Amos, delivers the real humanness of this emotional drama. The particularly fine cast proved most adept at ensemble acting, keeping emotions taut — except for some wonderfully funny moments.

    Chris Caswell delivered a fully dimensional and powerful performance as Sarah, the adrenalin-addicted photographer, who masks deep issues with an overly “rational” affect. She is well matched by Robert Harte as James, who, despite an overuse of his hands when talking, touchingly revealed the character’s emotional damage.

    Paul Ugalde presented a particularly dimensional performance as Richard, successfully blending his concern for his friends and his newfound joy. Kari Buckley proved convincing and perfectly natural as Mandy, whose lack of sophistication belies a deeply caring person.

    Vermont Stage’s physical production was attractive, with a realistic loft setting by Blair Mielnik and appropriate costumes by Suzanne Kneller. Martha Goode’s effective sound design, evoking the sounds of war, could have used more dramatic lighting, but John Paul Devlin’s design was certainly adequate.

    Vermont Stage’s “Time Stands Still” proved a most powerful and rewarding theater experience.

    Vermont Stage

    Vermont Stage Company presents the Donald Margulies drama “Time Stands Still” Jan. 30-Feb. 17 at the Flynn Center’s FlynnSpace, 153 Main St. in Burlington. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, plus 2 p.m. matinees on Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets are $31.50, $26 for Wednesdays and matinees; call 863-5966 or go online to www.flynntix.org.

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