With all the suffering and atrocities in the world, it is easy to lose sight of the big picture. We often become so focused on the negative that we are unable to see the magic and beauty that are just outside our field of vision.

“Time Stands Still,” playing at the Public Theatre, shows how a near-death experience can shift a person’s focus.

Sarah Goodwin (Janet Mitchko) and her common-law husband, James Dodd (Evan Mueller), have traveled the world, witnessing the sorrow of others.

She captures them on camera, and he gives them voice through the printed word. They never had any conscious desire to settle down and get married.

When Sarah is injured in a roadside bombing, both are forced to re-evaluate their perspectives on life.

Sarah survived nearly being blown to bits, but will she and James survive the challenges of everyday life? What happens when life as you know it is turned upside down?

Mitchko and Mueller are well cast as Sarah and James. Mueller delivers emotional depth that speaks to his character’s inner turmoil. Mitchko deftly captures her character’s no-nonsense attitude.

David Newer and Jessica DiGiovanni add perspective to the play as Sarah’s and James’ longtime friend/editor, Richard Ehrlich, and his naive girlfriend, Mandy Bloom. David is only three years younger than Mandy’s dad.

“There’s young, and there’s embryonic,” quips Sarah upon meeting Mandy.

Sarah and James view Mandy as a midlife crisis.

For Richard, Mandy is a new beginning, and a breath of fresh air. He recently escaped an intellectually stimulating, but toxic, relationship. Uncomplicated is exactly what he needs.

Mandy’s innocence provides a stark contrast to Sarah’s jaded view of life. Sarah believes it is her job to capture painful events, but never interfere. Mandy cries over a nature documentary in which the film crew stands by and allows a baby elephant to die. She’s devastated by the idea that they wouldn’t help.

DiGiovanni flawlessly played up her character’s lack of sophistication Friday night, garnering laughs that were made heartier by perfectly timed eye rolling from Mitchko.

Playwright Donald Margulies clearly understands the challenges of bringing life to stage, at one point having Sarah and James criticize the lack of reality in a play they go to see.

“Time Stands Still” doesn’t share this fatal flaw. The character dynamics throughout are strong, providing both entertainment and plenty of food for thought.

Do you, like Sarah, see the world only through a narrow lens, or do you see life for all it has to offer, good and bad?

“Time Stands Still” reminds us how important it is shift focus and take in the whole picture.

After all, anyone who’s been to the location where a picture was taken, or a film shot, knows that you only have to turn around to see a completely different point of view.

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. She can be contacted at:

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