Time Stands Still

By Donald Margulies
Directed by Daniel Sullivan
Featuring Laura Linney, Brian D’Arcy James, Eric Bogosian, Christina Ricci

Cort Theatre, 138 W 48th Street
production web site: http://timestandsstillonbroadway.com/google.php

January 28, 2010 — January 30, 2011

Reviewed by Martha Wade Steketee
January 25, 2011

  • “When I look through that little rectangle, time stops.”
  • “The camera is there to record life, not change it.”
  • “We’re supposed to capture truth, not stage it.”
Linney, James, Bogosian, Ricci. Photo by Joan Marcus.

I attended a performance of this play in February 2010 during its limited run at the Friedman Theatre with the same cast save Alicia Silverstone, replaced to great effect in the continuation cast by Christina Ricci.  I return to see the show one last time before the show closes at the end of this week and every precious dollar for my front row seat is paid back to me in full.  The location shift, the cast’s time with this solid and layered play, and this casting alteration quietly amps up my already quite positive reaction to this delicious piece of writing. There is balance to the ensemble and clarity in the action and calm power in the performances that are stunning and … click.  There you are.  Why we go to theatre 101.

Photographer Sarah (Laura Linney) and journalist James (Brian D’Arcy James) are a team in their 30s or early 40s — not married at curtain up but living and working together for over five years.  At the beginning of the play Sarah and James enter their Williamsburg loft (where all the play’s action takes place).  Sarah is limping, curmudgeon-y, eschewing assistance after recovery from wounds suffered in a bombing while on assignment. James is attentive and patient, and soon announces a visit from Richard (Eric Bogosian), James and Sarah’s editor/boss and once upon a time a love interest of Sarah’s, and James’ newest relationship with a young woman several decades younger — Mandy (Christina Ricci).

The balance in this cast is taut.  We believe that Mandy and Richard are together with back story and a real relationship — a belief I never quite embraced with the previous casting (20 something Silverstone and 50 something Bogosian together was too eerily like the doomed rebound affair between Sydney Pollack and youthful yoga instructor in Woody Allen‘s 1992 Husband and Wives).  Sarah gets off some great one liners of course, early in the revelation of the spring-winter romance (“There’s young”, she says to Richard about Mandy, “and there’s embryonic”) yet the characters and the plotlines soon supersede the easy midlife/grasp at life story lines.  Sarah and James ponder whether or not to marry after learning that Richard and Mandy are not only planning to marry but are expecting a child.  Over the course of a year or so, over two acts, future hope breeds consideration of personal world views.  We believe the love and the clear decision-making by the couple, Sarah and James, at the core of this story — will they be able to live a life together without the adrenaline rush of war-time work life?

Sarah recalls an event in a war zone when a wounded woman attempts to stop her photographing her family’s grief.  Sarah concludes that she must continue her work.  It is her life.  Yet she is shaken: “There was blood on my lens.”  This play is in part an examination of that balance, where one stands as observer and participant in life — recording, heeding the rebuff, capturing the moment, or something else.  Click.

© Martha Wade Steketee (January 27, 2011)

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