Can you leave behind a turbulent and demanding, but ultimately exciting and rewarding, career for a simpler life? It’s the question at the core of Pulitzer Prize-winner Donald Margulies’ play “Time Stands Still,” which the McLean Community Players will be performing in its Washington, D.C. area community theater debut this month and next.
Sarah is a photojournalist and James is a foreign correspondent. The couple made their careers together, traveling around the world and capturing images and writing words of conflict in the Middle East. But now they’ve returned to the United States; she was marred by a roadside bomb and came back to heal, and he’s helping her – partly spurred on by the guilt of leaving her alone overseas after his own nervous breakdown. Their scars run deep. But can they make their living doing something more conventional, or will the thrills of the careers they left behind call them back?
It’s a question that resonated with Michael Himes, who plays James. It was about a decade ago that he was faced with a similar decision.
Himes went to New York City straight out of college, temping to make money and auditioning day and night. He eventually joined the 13th Street Repertory Company and was cast in a number of their shows. It was there that he met his wife. They married, and when they had their first child he had to grapple with the reality of what raising a family as an actor in New York City would be like. He always knew he wanted to have a family, he explained, and actors certainly could still have the family life, but it’s tough to do as an actor, and even tougher in the Big Apple.
He’s a software developer now and father of four, and he knows he made the right decision. But with the opening of Time Stands Still, Himes will make his return to acting. It’s been challenging to take time away from his children for rehearsals, he said, but the excitement of readying his character to entertain audiences once again is great.
“I got a thrill through my body just preparing, and realizing ‘wow, I’m going to be on stage again,’” Himes said, recalling witnessing the stage in its pre-show preparations.
While Himes’ may be a special case of connecting so closely with a character’s story, actress Leta Hall, who plays Sarah, says Margulies has written characters that audiences will recognize.
“He writes people,” Hall said. “We know the people he writes.” She knows people with Sarah’s biting New York wit, conveyed as Margulies finds humor even in the stark tragedy of her circumstances.
Director Jessie Roberts agrees. While her audiences may not know a photojournalist or journalist personally, she says they’ll relate to the personalities on stage. Margulies’ dialogue is also familiar to audiences, Roberts says, even as the script demands that characters talk over one another and in emotionally wrought monologues.
“He makes them sound very real,” Roberts said. “He makes it sound like something people would actually say in a moment of high emotion.”
And Roberts hopes that her audiences do make the connection to these journalists and lovers in distress, and thinks they may even get some peace of mind for seeing these characters struggle.
“It affirms, or reassures you that you are not alone,” Roberts said. “Life is going to go on for these people, and life has gone on for you.”
“Time Stands Still” runs Sept. 20 – Oct 5. Performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. The play will be performed at the McLean Community Center’s Alden Theatre, 1234 Ingleside Ave., McLean. Tickets are $14 – $16. For more information, visit mcleanplayers.org or call 866-811-4111.