Adrenaline and Amore

A war photographer struggles to balance her job and love life in ‘Time Stands Still’

January 19, 2012

Holly Twyford and Greg McFadden play a couple at a crossroads in “Time Stands Still.”

When it’s clear from a character’s first entrance that she can barely use her left leg or her right arm and that she’s covered in shrapnel scars, one might assume the play will center on post-traumatic stress. But that’s not all that’s happening in Studio Theatre’s “Time Stands Still.” The play is also about love, marriage and the difficulty of balancing — or choosing between — family and career.

Sarah (Holly Twyford), the play’s war-photographer protagonist, is recuperating stateside with the help of her boyfriend, journalist Jamie (Greg McFadden) after an encounter with a roadside bomb in Iraq. While the morals and motivations of war journalists are rich material for a play, Donald Margulies’ script is more interested in his characters’ quotidian lives — and in an unusually undramatic, mature exploration of relationships. Sarah and Jamie must come to terms with the differing futures they want — he’s happy not being shot at, she’s not so sure — and what that means for them as a couple. “It’s not about soul mates and tragedy,” says director Susan Fenichell. “You can love somebody and it’s perfect — until you realize you want different things.”

There is a feminist sheen to “Time Stands Still,” as it tackles common dilemmas of career women — in this case, Sarah and her friend Mandy — who feel pressured to have it all: When is it too early or too late to have a family? Are women without careers betraying their gender? Are women selfish if they don’t have children?

“I don’t think it’s only a play about women’s perspectives,” says Fenichell, “but the pressure on the women is really acute — and a lot of it is self-induced. But as much as you can look at it from a feminist angle, it’s more about how people make choices.” The characters in “Time Stands Still” each have to decide what they want from life.

“The play isn’t set in a war zone for a reason,” she says. “It’s a domestic drama. It’s about how much we want to risk for our relationships.”

Studio Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW; through Feb. 12, $35-$69; 202-332-3300. (Dupont Circle)
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