Fortune Theatre, Dunedin

26/09/2015 - 17/10/2015

Production Details


Nominated for two Tony Awards, TIME STANDS STILL is a moving and humor-filled portrait of a couple daunted by the prospect of a more conventional life as they return home to Brooklyn after working in the Middle East.

Sarah (Jacque Drew) and James (Jeff Szusterman), a photojournalist and a foreign correspondent, find themselves trying to find balance and happiness after being scarred – physically and emotionally – while covering conflicts. Theirs is a partnership based on telling the toughest stories and, together, making a difference. But, when their own story takes a sudden turn, this brave couple finds themselves moving in two different directions, unable to erase the past.

Margulies’s drama cleverly contrasts Sarah and James’ relationship with that of their good friend Richard (Peter Hayden), a news magazine editor, and Mandy (Torum Heng), his much-younger, very naïve and slightly dopey new girlfriend.

Lara Macgregor, Director and Fortune Theatre’s Artistic Director said, “I had the privilege of meeting the writer in New York in April, and he was thrilled that Time Stands Still is having its New Zealand Premiere in Dunedin. He is such a smart writer and has penned a dynamic, funny and complex character in Sarah – a woman torn between her career and relationship. Her beliefs in what she has dedicated her life to are under siege themselves. The fallout of those choices on her husband and how he copes are issues faced by many in the contemporary society we live in.”

Margulies is gifted at creating complex characters through wholly natural interaction.” – NY Times

“What I tried to do with this play,” said writer Donald Margulies, “is capture a sense of the way we live now, to dramatize the things that thinking, feeling, moral people are thinking about and struggle with — the issues of how to be a citizen of the world, how to show compassion, how to be involved, how to be true to yourself and your immediate loved ones. The title of the play comes from the idea that photographs capture a specific moment, that they freeze time.”

Margulies conveys contemporary attitudes towards war, the media, and relationships by his skilful choice of characters who express themselves with bite and wit.” – CurtainUp 

This is a blazingly important new work about responsibility – to ourselves, to our loved ones, to our community and to our world. 

Featuring: Jacque Drew (Jacquie Brown Diaries, Shortland Street), Peter Hayden (NHNZ, Pete’s Dragon), Torum Heng (Go Girls), and Jeff Szusterman (Hercules, Shortland Street)

Time Stands Still was commissioned and given its world premiere by the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles in February 2009. The play was produced on Broadway in January 2010 by the Manhattan Theatre Club, directed by Daniel Sullivan with a cast featuring Laura Linney (Sarah), Brian D’Arcy James (James), Eric Bogosian (Richard) and Alicia Silverstone (Mandy). Christina Ricci stepped into the role of Mandy when the play reopened in New York in October of 2010.

Fortune Theatre, 231 Stuart Street, Dunedin
26 September – 17 October, 2015
2 hours 10 minutes, including intermission
Tuesday, 6.00pm, Wednesday – Saturday, 7.30pm, Sunday, 4.00pm
(no show Monday)

Tickets:  Gala (first 5 shows) $34, Adults $42, Senior Citizens $34,
Members $32, Tertiary Students $20, High School Students $15,
Group discount (10 +) $34

Bookings:  Fortune Theatre, 231 Stuart Street, Dunedin 
Box Office 03 477 8323 or visit www.fortunetheatre.co.nz 

Lunchtime Bites / Thursday, 17 September
meet at 12.15pm in the Dunedin Public Library, ground floor.
The actors will perform an excerpt from Time Stands Still with an opportunity to win tickets. Reading will commence at 12.30pm followed by afternoon tea. This is a FREE event.

Opening Night / Saturday, 26 September
7.30pm, Fortune Theatre.

Members’ Briefing / Sunday, 27 September
meet at the Fortune bar at 3.00pm and join Fortune Theatre Artistic Director Lara Macgregor for a lively informal chat about Time Stands Still.

Forum / Tuesday, 29 September  
join the cast and crew for an open question and answer session following the 6.00pm show.

Jacque Drew, Peter Hayden, Torum Heng and Jeff Szusterman

Set Designer – Peter King
Set Builder – Richard Clark
Lighting Designer – Garry Keirle
Costume Designer – Maryanne Wright-Smyth
Sound Designer – Matthew Morgan
Make-up Designer – George Wallace
Stage Manager – Monique Webster
Properties – George Wallace 

Theatre ,

Nuanced depth gets audience thinking

Review by Barbara Frame 29th Sep 2015

James and Sarah have retreated to their New York home. He’s a psychologically damaged war correspondent; she’s a photographer seriously dinged up by a roadside bomb. The last thing they need, or so they think, is a new friend in the form of Pollyanna-ish airhead Mandy. 

Pulitzer prizewinner Donald Margulies’ play appears deceptively simple, but just below the surface lies enormous, multilayered complexity. Serious questions about professional and personal responsibility and the limits of endurance emerge as relationships evolve, clash and disintegrate. 

Lara Macgregor, in her last play as the Fortune’s artistic director, interprets it with the sensitivity and intelligence that Dunedin audiences have come to expect. Her expertise will be missed. 

Jacque Drew plays Sarah with such conviction that, as the play opens, it is impossible to believe she is not herself suffering from shattered bones and shrapnel wounds. Jeff Szusterman is utterly convincing as James, whose psychic frailty becomes more apparent as the attractions of a quiet life and rubbish television grow stronger. Peter Hayden, well known to local audiences, is urbane and assured as editor Richard; and Torum Heng delights as Mandy, whose cheery optimism contrasts with James’s and, especially, Sarah’s approaches to life. 

Peter King’s detailed set depicts a New York apartment, complete with multiple door locks and Eames chairs. Maryanne Wright-Smyth’s costumes, as always, show careful attention to their characters, and this is exemplified by sending Sarah, who’s ambivalent about getting married, to her own wedding in a bizarre and unsuitable dress. 

Time Stands Still crackles with timeliness, sophistication and wit. Like all of the very best plays it has the power to stimulate thought and discussion, and my guess is that members of Saturday night’s audience, many of them visibly moved, will be talking about it for weeks. Seriously recommended.


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Truly rewarding theatre – and a tribute to Lara Macgregor

Review by Terry MacTavish 27th Sep 2015

The tiny limp body of a drowned toddler, cradled in the arms of a policeman whose rescue effort came too late: the unbearably poignant image that brought the desperation of the refugee crisis home to us, thanks to the media, quite literally.

As it became the top-trending topic on twitter, no one could doubt the power of the picture that paints a thousand words. But the ethics of such photography demand debate, and once again the Fortune, under the inspirational direction of Lara Macgregor, has confronted us with a production that is as searingly relevant as it is accomplished. 

We are accustomed to the seeming heartlessness of the natural history film-makers, merely recording as a polar bear starves on shrinking ice or a penguin chick is attacked by seagulls. No interference, simply the truth, harsh as it is. We get it.

But what of human suffering? Shameful enough when an American tourist strolls onto a stage to snap a photo in the face of a little Thai dancer, but when the stage is a war zone and the subject a woman who has just seen her family blown to bits in front of her?

In Time Stands Still, writer Donald Margulies challenges the ethics of recording conflict and disaster in the context of a tortuous relationship. Sarah, a photojournalist badly injured in a bomb blast while covering the war in Iraq, has returned to New York and her partner of nearly nine years, James. He too is a war reporter, guilt-stricken because the breakdown attributed to shell shock meant he had returned before her accident, while Sarah has her own guilty secret.

“The outside leaks and the bones creak,” murmurs my guest, a brilliant choreographer to whom such images come naturally; “how we bring damage into our relationships.” It is this damaged relationship that Macgregor explores so sensitively. 

Sarah and James must decide whether the damage can be repaired, whether to continue their perceived mission to bear witness to horrors, or to stay in a comfortable middle class world, marry (“too busy saving the world to make it legal” sooner) and maybe make babies.

To throw their tense relationship into even sharper relief, enter Richard, old friend and editor of their planned book of photographs (their alternative baby?) with his brand-new young girlfriend, Mandy. Mandy thinks Sarah’s pictures are awesome. Mandy has shiny helium balloons for the invalid, because, unlike flowers, “You don’t have to worry about balloons dying.”

Clearly she provides light relief, for us as well as Richard, but she also serves the same purpose as Margery in The Country Wife, her innocence and honesty revealing the cynicism of the sophisticates who think themselves superior. Her impassioned protest over the detached filming of an abandoned baby elephant wins the sympathy of many in the audience, who may well have seen that particular documentary.

Jacque Drew, with clever wound make-up by George Wallace, gives a well-controlled performance as Sarah, as convincing in her physical depiction of the injured leg as in her sharp-tongued, well-paced altercations with James. Drew is courageous enough to make of Sarah a strong, independent and driven character we can admire, but not necessarily like.

As she flicks through the book of her own photographs, I think of a family member who returned from Red Cross work in India to make her pictures of the people’s joys and hardships into a calendar to be sold for the benefit of their village. I don’t see that level of altruism in Sarah, despite her loftily expressed ideals.

Jeff Szusterman, Drew’s real-life partner, is a fine foil for her as James, handicapped in their rows by his belief he has let her down, until a revelation allows him to feel he has the moral high ground. Szusterman endows James with an edgy intellectualism, whether he is justifying viewing horror movies (“They are a barometer of the time”), fretting over the desensitizing effect of over-exposure to atrocities, or making a slightly ludicrous bid for a ‘normal’ life. While she thrives on adrenalin, he is ready for comfort.

As Richard, Peter Hayden is urbane and charming, finding a depth in the character that belies our first impression of him as the stereotypical man having a mid-life crisis. As the photo editor of a fashionable magazine that rejects even deeply significant stories if their shelf-life has expired, or the readers might be turned off, his perspective on the journalists is illuminating.  “I’ve lived vicariously through you for years,” he says. “I’ve seen the world through your eyes.” 

His cutely naïve girlfriend, Mandy, initially also seems a walking cliché, but it would be hard not to warm to Torum Heng’s endearing performance as a tender-hearted and ultimately pragmatic young woman who can think and speak for herself. She is also frequently very funny.

Peter King, designer of so many fine sets for the Fortune, has outdone himself this time, aided by Richard Clark, with an amazingly spacious studio apartment so realistic you feel you could move in.  The kitchen and bathroom have running water, the big bed in its brick-lined alcove is inviting, and we glimpse the stairwell though a door that has James’ bike suspended against it.  Every detail of the couple’s lives is meticulously recreated, so that we are immediately aware of any change, like the addition of a television.

The room is dominated by huge windows that look onto other high-rise apartments, each showing different lights in every scene, and as the play progresses, we watch the snow falling softly outside give way to dripping rain, and then to mellow sun. During the fascinating scene changes, outdoor light pours beautifully through the dusty windows into the darkened apartment, and the characters themselves rearrange the furniture, James pulling out a chair for Sarah’s bandaged leg.

Altogether the design for lighting, sound and costume (love Sarah’s flame-coloured dress!), by Garry Keirle, Matthew Morgan and Maryanne Wright-Smyth respectively, supports the production with the confident professional polish we have come to expect from this experienced team, which under manager Lindsay Gordon is equal to the very best in its field. 

Director Macgregor is herself a noted photographer, which gives her the advantage of a certain empathy with the characters. She ensures every issue is treated with commitment and energy, the actors focused, the dialogue crackling, and the tough questions fired at the audience, right up to the marvellous final image. Are these heroes, confronting us with the truth and changing the world for the better, or parasites living off the suffering of others? And how would our own lives bear up to the scrutiny of the lens? 

The sincerity with which Time Stands Still is directed and performed means that the ending seems appropriate and inevitable. These iconic pictures, like that of the drowned toddler, that convey essential truths, surely must be made, whatever the cost.

“This is a play for intelligent people,” says Macgregor. “Please be intelligent!” The audience rises to the challenge, their quiet concentration showing each member making up their own mind, attentively following the characters’ journeys but reaching their own conclusions. That is the purpose of theatre, after all, and as satisfying for the audience as it is complimentary. Time Stands Still is truly rewarding theatre. 

Yet I am left with a feeling of sadness, and a wish that time would indeed stand still, for this arresting production is Lara Macgregor’s last as Artistic Director of Fortune Theatre. To say she has been a success is an absurd understatement. Dunedin and the theatre community owe her a huge debt of gratitude.

Her vision and industry have made some extraordinary connections for the theatre – this play for instance, is accompanied by a display of wonderful photos with an invitation for the audience to vote for a People’s Choice winner. 

Macgregor’s initiatives include a terrific education programme, under Shannon Colbert and Lucy Summers, that has brought more young people into the theatre than ever before. Links have been forged with the University of Otago Theatre Studies Department, and collaborative productions mounted. 

Young playwrights have been nurtured with programmes like the 4×4 Young Playwrights Initiative, and the whole community has been drawn into crazy endeavours like the 86 hour Shakespeare Marathon. 

Local talent has been recognised and employed, and local plays mounted, while actors from other centres have been drawn to the Fortune through a confident reliance on the technical crew and the quality of support they will find. 

As a reviewer, I have been enormously excited by programme choices like the True Grit series, and classics by Beckett and Pinter: plays that fire the mind and spirit and leave the spectator changed. 

And through all of this, Lara has directed more than her share of stimulating theatre with insight and expertise, displaying compassion without sentimentality. Many have benefitted from her personal grace and generosity. A standing ovation from the Dunedin theatre community!


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