“Time Stands Still” more than it should in an earnest but only intermittently engaging revival of Donald Margulies’ 2009 drama at North Hollywood’s Secret Rose Theatre.
Produced by lead performer Presciliana Esparolini and Christopher Amitrano in association with the Aquila Morong acting studio, the staging by Vicky Jenson successfully captures the script’s broad contours. Unfortunately, it underserves Margulies’ subtly interwoven personal and universal explorations of violence and its aftermath.
Perched at the intersection of the play’s resonant dilemmas is Sarah Goodwin (Esparolini), a war zone photojournalist returning to the safety zone of her Brooklyn loft after a roadside bomb left her with a headful of shrapnel and a shattered leg.
Esparolini nicely details the stages in Sarah’s physical recovery; she’s equally effective in personalizing Sarah’s grappling with the ethical and psychological consequences of her dangerous profession — its requisite commitment to detached truth-telling at the expense of humanitarian intervention — as well as her need to put compulsive risk-taking ahead of a comfortable life.
However, an initial stance of depressed moping clashes with her stated intent to return to work as soon as possible; her fierce tenacity should be apparent out of the gate.
More serious shortcomings occur in mannered delivery that turns the natural back-and-forth of thoughtful conversation into rhetorical ping-pong — particularly the self-righteous assertions by Sarah’s longtime boyfriend (Aidan Bristow, making no attempt to tone down the movie star looks with which freelance writers are blessed in some alternate universe).
Troy Ruptash fares better in the second act as Sarah’s seasoned photo editor, but his naive fiancée (Nik Isbelle) turns common-sense wisdom into commonplace cliché. The production hits its stride when character tempers flare, but the bigger unmet challenges lie in the quiet eddies in which relationships — and time itself — slip away.
“Time Stands Still,” Secret Rose Theatre, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends Feb. 8. $30. www.timestandsstillla.com. Running time: 2 hours.