Dorian Hargrove 12:47 p.m., May 19
Sarah's a photojournalist renowned taking award-winning shots of international atrocities. When we first see her she can barely move. A roadside bomb killed her "fixer" - interpreter - and blasted her with shrapnel. Her arm's in a sling, a leg's in a splint, and red scars streak down her right side from head to toe.
James, her companion of eight-and-a-half years, attends to her with the officiousness of a rookie nurse. He's a writer who also covers wars. But after a devastating event, he finds himself drawn toward cultural concerns, horror films among them.
On first sight, Sarah and James seem a matched pair. Both derive manic adrenaline fixes from reporting man's inhumanity to mankind.
Richard, Sarah's photo editor, and young Mandy seem unmatched. His hair's begun to gray and she, as acerbic Sarah blurts out, isn't just much younger than Richard, she's "embryonic."
What follows for Sarah and James is a truce from war. Revelations ensue: purposes questioned, goals reassessed, betrayals. Over the next ten months, those that are matched will later be un-, and vice versa.
Each scene combines a revelation with a relevant issue. The quartet haggles about photographing cruelty: should Sarah shoot the "story," or drop the camera and aid the victims? Is she doing art or exploitation?
They go back and forth about May-December relationships. And the play concludes with what, for many, can be a couples' battlefield: must one have to choose between work and love?
Donald Margulies said he wrote Time "to capture a sense of the way we live now." And the concerns are still viable. But several plays gave them a thorough going-over back in the 80s. Take away references to Iran and Time feels like a period piece.
Directed by David Ellenstein, the North Coast Rep has given it a solid production. Marty Burnett's set, a whitewashed brick apartment, sports the cross-cultural knickknacks you'd expect for world-travelers (props by Annie Bornhurst).
Francis Gercke's often cast as frontal, in-your-face males. As James, he plays a kind of second-fiddle vulnerability quite affectingly. Mhari Sandoval probes Sarah's concerns better than the playwright, who has her explain all with "war's my parents' house all over again" (best of show: Peter Herman's make-up starts with realistic scars then has them slowly heal).
Reliable John Nutten makes the most of Richard, who functions more as a device for discussion than a person. And the real revelation is Stacey Hardke as Mandy. She begins as a cliche, The vapid trophy babe. Hardke's spot-on here, and funny. Then, in unseen ways, she builds "character" into her character.
Among many successful works, Margulies has written Dinner with Friends, which won a Pulitzer Prize. Compared to his others, Time pales. It's formulaic and unfolds with such predictability (always expect the opposite of what you see) that Margulies either wrote it with one hand or owed someone a play.
North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Suite D, Solana Beach, playing through March 17.