Pensacola, Florida
Monday October 14th 2019


Sharing War Stories

By Hamishe Randall

War is the business Sarah Goodwin excels in, but her career as a fearless photojournalist capturing the strife and terrors of war in Iraq ends abruptly when she is injured by a bomb and must return home to Brooklyn.

Complicated, contradictory and self-restrained, Sarah’s is the pivotal voice of “Time Stands Still,” a play that examines the gentle but sometimes bitter truth that life and love cannot be controlled. In this thoughtful drama, two couples navigate the period of Sarah’s convalescence and tackle tough questions such as social responsibility and how life goes on after coming home from war.

Pulitzer Prize-winner playwright Donald Margulies’ “Time Stands Still” has been nominated for two Tony Awards. Billy Buff is directing the play that will be performed at Pensacola Little Theatre’s Studio 400, which leans toward cutting edge productions.

“I’ve been wanting to direct it [Time Stands Still] because it has such depth and it’s good writing. You can’t go wrong with good writing,” said Buff. “It has interesting characters that you don’t normally see, and [especially] strong female characters, which even today is hard to come by.”

The four-member cast relies not on fancy sets and showy displays, but on that writing and their acting. The social issues and tragedies of war confronted in the play come from the insightful perspective of war correspondents.

“One thing people may not think about is the war correspondents and the photographers. They are just as much veterans as the soldiers are,” said Buff. “They are right there in the thick of the fight as well, and sometimes they’re caught between a rock and a hard place in the sense that they are civilians, they are not military, but they are appreciated by the military. There’s more to it than just the soldiers. The families of those who serve are also traumatized; they are also part of it. People tend to think about one person and not the community. I don’t think people realize that it does affect more than one person, that there is a ripple effect.”

The play opens with Sarah and her boyfriend James returning home from overseas. Sarah is wounded and James is wracked with guilt, but they try to help each other physically and emotionally transition. Rachel Corona plays Sarah, and in real life being in a military family, she sees first-hand the struggles people face when returning home from war.

“How do you live a normal life knowing what happens in the world?” asks Corona. “I think that’s very much what our characters are going through, returning after something so horrific. How do you maintain a relationship with all that in your head?”

David Blanton plays Sarah’s boyfriend, James. A writer in real life, Blanton sympathizes with his journalist character.

“It’s definitely one of the more challenging roles that I’ve undertaken,” said Blanton. “Just the diversity of emotions and the different emotional states that my character is in throughout the play, it’s exhausting. But I’m up for the challenge.”

Anyone who has suffered and had to move on with life will relate to the play’s candid account of healing and finding love.

“I think this is an incredibly honest portrayal of a relationship as far as love and hate being part of the same thing,” said Corona. “I’m sure you’ve been in a situation that is so painful that you do everything that you can to make it lighthearted, that’s what happens throughout this story. There are things that are so deep that hurt so much that if you don’t laugh you’re going to scream.”

Playing contrast to Sarah and James are the characters, Richard and Mandy. Andrew Malloy plays Richard, the best friend, and former flame of Sarah. Richard is a veteran photo editor at a newsmagazine who’s transitioning towards a new life with his young girlfriend, Mandy. Played by Chantelle Cognevich, Mandy is the youngest character in the play and unlike the others. She is very much the voice of the audience.

“Everyone knows how hard life is, but I’m looking at the positive side,” said Cognevich. “You have to find the little tiny moments—whether it’s just, hey I just got me some new pair of socks or your coffee—if you take the small, tiny little moments of the day, you get through.”

Mandy asks in the play what is she supposed to do with the information given. It’s a powerful question repeated throughout the play. When confronted with what we learn, what do we do with it? What should you take away from this play?

“I hope people come and enjoy the work for how it’s been written and what it portrays. It’s a great story,” said Malloy. “Two couples are just trying to do the best they can with the limitations that life has thrust upon them.”

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9 and Saturday, Sept. 10; 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11; 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 15-Saturday, Sept. 17
WHERE: Pensacola Little Theatre, 400 S. Jefferson St.
COST: $10-17