A new play at the Guthrie Theater is described as an emotional ride through one woman’s lens.
Time Stands Still, which opened earlier this month, received high acclaim in cities like New York, Boston and Los Angeles and even in its infancy in the Twin Cities, audiences are buzzing about this compelling show.
Sarah Goodwin is a photojournalist still recovering from injuries she suffered while covering the war in Iraq. The story picks up with her return home — to her partner, to her job and to a life that kept moving while she was away.
Guthrie veteran Sarah Agnew plays Goodwin and took some time out of her busy schedule to chat with us about the play.
Q: Tell us about Time Stands Still.
A: In Time Stands Still, a new play by Pulitzer Prize-winner Donald Margulies, photojournalist Sarah Goodwin has barely survived a bomb blast covering the war in Iraq and returns to her home in Brooklyn to heal. The play begins as she and her longtime partner James, also a journalist, attempt to settle into “normal” life, but find themselves caught in a tug-of-war between returning to the front lines and staying stateside to start a family.
Q: What were your reactions after first seeing or reading this play?
A: After I read the play for the first time I was so taken by the economy Margulies uses in telling this story. It unfolds brilliantly and the characters are completely authentic. People have described his plays as “elbowing,” which means that as the audience watches they elbow their companion to acknowledge behavior they see onstage that mirrors their own.
Q: You play Sarah Goodwin, who seems like a complicated, maybe even conflicted woman who has just returned from photographing the Iraq War, where she suffered more than external injuries. How did you dive into this role?
A: I approached this part by researching the stories of journalists who have reported from Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia. Kimberly Dozier, a correspondent for CBS news, wrote a book about her experience surviving a car bomb in Baghdad. That kind of personal account was very useful. There is a great documentary called “War Photographer,” that focuses on James Nachtwey and we see him in the field working with laser sharp focus and calm amidst absolute chaos. Veteran war correspondent Chris Hedges’ book, “War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning,” was the most enlightening for me. His accounts of what happened to him on the ground are intensely personal, pained and profound. This was my launching off point when I started the project.
Q: The play deals with very serious topics but also has quite a bit of humor. How does that work in this context?
A: It’s a very funny play because it’s so real. It’s so human.
Q: Beyond some of the heavier topics, the story really focuses on love and the evolution of a relationship, especially one that centers around work and home. Tell us more about Sarah and her partner James’ relationship.
A: Sarah Goodwin has physical injuries and her partner James has deep psychological ones. They’re navigating their way in domestic life for the first time, without the high octane charge of war. She wants to get back to the action, while he is ready to give it up. What complicates things more is that they love each other deeply.
Q: How have audiences reacted to this show so far?
A: Audiences are laughing uproariously and sobering up on a dime when the play takes surprising turns. One audience member told me after opening night that she had spent the intermission trying to loosen up because she had been on the edge of her seat due to the dramatic tension of the first act.
Q: What do you hope people take away from this play?
A: I hope people leave the theater still laughing at their favorite lines and moments, but also wrestling with the questions the play brings up. Margulies is intentionally ambiguous; there is a lot of grey area around themes of war, politics, love and journalism. My hope is that the play begins a conversation that goes on well after people leave the theater.
Time Stands Still runs through May 20 at the Guthrie Theater’s McGuire Proscenium stage. For more information, or to buy tickets to the show, click here.