If there’s anything Red Turnip Theater can do well, it’s choosing plays that make you think. Time Stands Still is no different. Penned by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Donald Marguiles, it is a deftly-written story of a couple who, after photographing and writing about the world’s pain, are faced with a battleground just as challenging as war-torn Middle East—their own relationship.
Sarah, played by Ana Abad Santos, is a photojournalist who is forced to put her career on pause after a bomb caused her injury. She comes home with her boyfriend, James (Nonie Buencamino), a freelance journalist who has seen the same horrors she has seen.
Right away, there is a tension between them—a contrasting difference where James is nurturing and Sarah struggles to be dependent on anyone. Their differences are fundamental, present from the beginning and aggravated the longer they spend time in domestic bliss with each other. Their long-time friend, Richard—played by Nor Domingo—arrives, hand in hand with a young Mandy, who cannot be any different from the other three.
Giannina Ocampo’s Mandy anchors the rest of the characters to reality. While these extraordinary and intense adults meander through their quest for meaning, she is self-aware and all the happier for it. It is a credit to Ocampo’s portrayal that Mandy is the most likeable and relatable of the lot. It’s very easy for her character to fall into the trap of comedy relief, but her performance gives Mandy an earnestness that makes you root for her.
As the story progresses, conversations between these four friends touch on different points that make you question your understanding of life and the world—from the ethics and duty of a journalist to what it means to commit to a lover or a calling. As Sarah recovers and neither she, nor Jamie, has her injuries to hide behind, we discover the extent of their incompatibility. Jamie longs for comfort and stability while Sarah can think of nothing but to get back to the life she had to leave behind.
What truly shines in this production is the smart yet delicate script, ably delivered by its seasoned cast. It presents questions that pierce and resonate without losing its subtleties. It is a timely piece for the “YOLO” generation who want the beautiful complications that come with lives and careers bigger than themselves. We are asked, “What are you here for?” and those who have found the answer are made to wonder: do you choose this over everything else?