South Stream Productions opened their latest production on New Year’s Day in the gorgeous new Sonorous Road studio. The play, written by Donald Margulies, takes a look at the current landscape of marriage and what can happen to this institution when it comes head to head with the harsh reality that is war. With a story centered around two journalists, the play’s title, Time Stands Still, appropriately refers to that moment caught in time when the camera snaps its lens.

As the show opens, James Dodd (Brook North) is escorting Sarah Goodwin (Olivia Griego) home from the hospital to the couple’s upstairs flat. Sarah, a photojournalist, was severely injured while on assignment in Afghanistan. She suffered burns and broken bones from an IED explosion and has been in a coma. James, suffering from PTSD inflicted while doing his own work as a journalist in Afghanistan, was home recovering when Sarah was struck down. Now he has brought her home, resolved to care for her.

The two banter easily. They have been together eight-and-a-half years, though have never married or had children, agreeing their work to be too much of an impediment. The status quo of their relationship is shaken when Richard Ehrlich (John Honeycutt), a long-term friend and photo editor for a major magazine, brings with him his girlfriend of the past few months, Mandy Bloom (Katie Barrett). Richard, an older gentleman, is smitten with the younger Mandy, who Sarah graciously types as a “lightweight,” judiciously refraining from using the more accurate term “airhead.” Richard is deliriously happy and says that Mandy is The One. The two will wed shortly; Mandy is pregnant. Once Richard and Mandy have tied the knot, James, seeing the two in their wedded bliss, begins to reevaluate his and Sarah’s established opinions on their own potential marriage.

Margulies uses these two pairs of characters to look at marriage from two differing points of view, representative in how these two couples approach the institution. Richard and Mandy have accepted, indeed embraced, the tried and true nuclear family, but James and Sarah, previously in full agreement, are no longer on the same page. Sarah’s work continues to be her main focus, but James is no longer interested in foreign locales. He wants to settle down, raise a family, and have the kids they have talked about but never had. But Sarah recognizes the impetus that has brought James to this veering of the ways; she knows he has wandered off, down a path that she does not care to follow.

The show is performed on a three-quarter round set with a beautiful and expansive design by Todd Houseknecht. Accentuated with a modern motif, the open-air flat places the bed upstage center, allotting the living room with the entire downstage playing area.

Director Andy Hayworth has done a tremendous job of bringing these four diverse characters together. One tremendously effective aspect of the show was how the actors’ easy interactions allowed us to see in short order how close the characters become. Through their character’s lengthy and complex discussions, North and Griego interacted as if they had indeed lived as a couple for nearly nine years. They entertained us with their banter and showed an understanding of the other’s feelings that came as naturally as breathing. Through the course of the play, North masterfully handled the evolution of James as he changed from a man who has faced down danger to a man who hides from it. Although James’ change is the most internal of the characters, all four actors were sharp and quick, and gave detailed and nuanced characterizations.

South Stream has created a beautiful and tender moment in time with Time Stands Still, and these four actors presented it with clarity and grace. Using ensemble dynamics and crisp individual characters, this quartet leads us on an examination of marriage from multiple viewpoints, which include two differing studies overshadowed by violence. This is a quick and sharp picture of life that proves to be extremely well crafted, from both the written word and the performances. South Stream presents us with a moment when understanding overcomes all else, including the dogs of war. Time Stands Still is a lesson for modern man, and this troupe has brought it to the stage with vision and perception.

Times Stands Still continues through Sunday, January 17. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.