A Killer Cast Tackles Complex Characters in Steppenwolf’s “Time Stands Still”


After barely surviving a bombing in Iraq, photojournalist Sarah Goodwin is faced with a decision.

Does she settle into a “normal” life in New York or heal up for her next life-threatening assignment?

For most people, this might seem like an easy choice, but not for Goodwin. Her struggle is at the heart of “Time Stands Still” at Steppenwolf Theatre. Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Donald Margulies and directed by Austin Pendleton, the play is rife with complex characters. The relationships between them, as portrayed by Pendleton’s perfectly cast ensemble, are riveting to watch, as they propel Goodwin toward her final decision.

Sally Murphy and Randall Newsome are painfully excellent at creating the tense bond between Goodwin and her long-time lover, James Dodd. Fiercely independent and stubborn, Goodwin dismisses Dodd’s touching desire to help her recover from her bomb injuries. Hobbling around in a leg brace with her arm in a sling, Murphy’s Goodwin still physically shirks Dodd’s help.

The complexity of Goodwin and Dodd’s relationship is pit against the ease of Goodwin’s editor’s new relationship with a much younger woman. Francis Guinan as Richard Ehrlich and Kristina Valada-Viars as Mandy Bloom are fun to watch. Valada-Viars’ spunky, naive Bloom provides the play’s comic relief. The character is kind, but the least worldly of the group, and she isn’t afraid to ask questions—or ask for ice cream.

The relationship that develops between Goodwin and Bloom is the most interesting, as it raises questions about marriage, motherhood and ethical questions concerning Goodwin’s work—is it right, for example, for photojournalists to make their livings off photos of the dying and not offer any help? Portraying such different women, Murphy and Valada-Viars confidently stick to their characters’ ideals while trying to understand the other’s very different viewpoints.

“Time Stands Still” runs through May 13 at Steppenwolf’s Upstairs Theatre. For tickets, call 312-335-1650 or visit steppenwolf.org.

Photo by Sandro