PURE Theatre has opened their 9th season, aptly titled Coming Home, in new digs at 477 King Street on Upper King Street. Time Stands Still is the season opener and this is the regional premier of Donald Margulies’ play, starring Sharon Graci, David Mandel, Mark Landis and Katie Smith. Randy Neale directs.
Theatre in Charleston provides you with many options and venues for the entire length of the performing arts season. Some good, some not so good, some are really good. Time Stands Still is an example of the really good.
Graci plays photo-journalist Sarah and her writer boyfriend Jamie is played by Mandel. She literally looks like something the cat drug in as Jamie helps situate his stubborn and severely wounded love. During her last assignment, Sarah and her ‘fixer’, the translator on the ground, were struck by a roadside bomb, killer her companion and landing her in the hospital, unconscious for two weeks.
You know those kind of people, the ones who can never slow down. Even in the face of death and a long healing process, Sarah continues to say, ‘what’s next?’
Sarah’s loved ones look at her brush with death and have more normal reactions. Jamie wants to get married, her editor and friend Richard settles down with a sweet girl, who while half his age, gives him the love and optimistic outlook that years of journalism seem to have robbed the rest of the cast of.
The cast is strong. Really strong. The set, costuming and music is all secondary, and doesn’t really matter in the face of stand out acting. It could truly fade away and you probably wouldn’t notice.
Graci is the pinnacle of this cast. Her ability to completely ‘become’ the gifted yet cynical Sarah is astounding. When she takes the stage, there is nothing left of the actress, she is totally and solely the character. Her timing and nuances are perfect. Nothing feels false or overly ‘acted.’
Graci, PURE Theatre’s artistic director and co-founder, spends more time directing than acting these days, so this is a real treat. I found myself wondering why Graci isn’t a household name. If you’ve never seen her, you owe it to yourself to see this production.
Mandel’s Jamie is an earnest and endearing man. Almost losing his beloved Sarah has clearly affected Jamie, and he is trying so hard to be the support that she needs. His rants are especially fantastic. It’s hard to get so worked up on opinions that aren’t your own, and Mandel does a great job.
You can tell Landis has been around the stage a time or two, and knows what he’s doing. He transitions smoothly between his roles as friend and boss to Sarah and Jamie, lover to Mandy and new father.
Mandy, his doe-eyed young girlfriend, has a ‘cockeyed optimist’ kind of outlook on life, born from a simpler and less tragic life experience. She is wonderfully loyal while also trying to make a genuine connection with Sarah and Jamie, who so clearly consider her almost trivial and vapid.
So why will you stand up for Time Stands Still? For me, the last scene was so incredibly poignant, heartbreaking and honest, that I literally sprang to my feet when the stage lights came up. It’s not often such an intimate setting and excellent acting coexist.
You have five more chances to see Time Stands Still, October 7, 8, 13 & 14 at 7:30 pm, and October 9 at 2 pm. Don’t miss it. Tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for student rush, with valid id, or call 866.811.4111.