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Time Stands Still

Time Stands Still Re-Opens With a Dandy New Mandy

Time Stands Still
Laura Linney
(Photo: Joan Marcus)
Donald Margulies' Time Stands Still has reopened at another Broadway theater for a welcome open run. The script of remains unchanged, and the three original actors are, if anything, better than ever.

Laura Linney again offers a master class in expressing feeling without saying a word —sort of a human equivalent of a picture that can say more than a thousand words. She also manages to make us relate to her character, even though she often comes across as less than sympathetic. d'Arcy James once again plays her partner with great feeling and conviction. John Lee Beatty's Williamsburg, Brooklyn loft has moved with every prop in place to the Cort Theater's stage.

I wish the questions asked about the ethical aspects of hot spot reportage, especially photographing scenes of people dying, had become less relevant in the eight months since that first viewing. Unfortunately there has been no diminishments in the scenes of violence and suffering for reporters like Sarah Goodwin and James Dodd to cover. The paralell story structure still resonates powerfully. The main counterpoint setup merges the globe trotting couple's dealing with the enforced hiatus to recover from his mental and her physical wounds on a war zone assignment and also the challenges of their 9-year relationship which James feels they should now legalize as a step towards the more normal, every day existence to which he finds himself drawn.

Christina Ricci

(Photo: Joan Marcus)
The additional counterpoint of Mandy, a much younger woman played by Christina Riccim the one new member of the cast. The Golden Globe and Emmy award nominated Ricci is cute as a button and perhaps even more than Alicia Silverstone the original Mandy, plays up the comic relief that this secondary relationship adds to the script. As the wide-eyed, naif who Sarah initially dismisses as a "lightweight" Ricci nails every aimed for laugh. Yet, she's also quite believable as someone with an outsider's very emotional perspective on Sarah's work. While Bogosian was clearly smitten with the original Mandy, his delight seems to have deepened and his defending t the relationship to Sarah and Jamie ("She's fun. . ! She's light. I discovered I like those things.")

The richly nuanced performances made seeing Time Stands Still a second time rewarding even though I knew what was going to happen as each scene flowed (fluidly as ever) into the next. It was also fun to hear some of the sharpest interchanges again; for example Sarah's wry response to Mandy's description of her job as an events planner ("I guess you can say I'm into events, too. Wars, famines, genocides. . ." ) of to the scars on one side of her face as her "Phantom of the Opera look."

Margulies' knows how to lighten serious issue, as in the amusing scene at the top of the second act when Jamie comments disgustedly on a play he and Sarah just saw which sent gales of laughter through the audience members who don't share his disdain for the theater). The laughs notwithstanding, this is not an easy, forget the world's and your own problems for two hours of relaxing entertainment. But it is a beautifully acted, finely staged thought provoking play. Isn't that what good theater is all about?

I'm posting this re-review on top of my original, as the details and my opinions remain unchanged.

New York Production Notes: Time Stands Still is now at Cort Theatre 138 West 48th Street
The design team is the same as at the Friedman theater.
This open run production had its official reopening on October 7, 2010
Ticket Price: $56.50 - $121.50
Running Time: 2 hours with an intermission
Tuesday 7:00pm, Wed to Sat 8pm, Wed and Sat at 2pm, Sunday at 3pm
Rereview based on 10/04/10 press preview
Closing 1/30/11 after 16 preview performances and 126 regular performances
I don't want to watch children die; I want to watch children grow—James, explaining his yearning to live a normal life watching Netflix and eating home cooked meals instead of chasing international catastrophe stories.
The war in Iraq was in full force when Donald Margulies wrote Time Stands Still, but the winding down of that conflict has not diminished its timeliness. On the contrary. The escalation of the war in Afghanistan and the war wreaked by nature on Haiti, prove that there's no standstill ever in the tragedies to which we bear witness courtesy of the words and images journalists like Sarah Goodwin (Laura Linney) and James Dodd (Brian D'Arcy James).

Yes, war drama is a label that fits this latest work from Margulies, a Pulitzer runnerup (Collected Stories) and Pulitzer winner (Dinner With Friends), to name just two of his always compelling, well crafted plays. But, like those dramas, the setting is once again a comfortable New York home, just as its dialogue reveals enough discussion provoking issues for several plays. ( Collected Stories tackled the conundrum of whether confidences shared between friends are morally fair game as the source for literature by the listener; Dinner With Friends explored the fallout of one couple's divorce on their friends' lives; and Sight Unseen dealt with issues of race and modern art via the reunion of a successful aritst and his former model and lover).

Time Stands Still is no more an action story than any of Mr. Margulies' previous plays. The only violent images we actually see are excerpts from Invasion of the Body Snatchers on the TV screen that's part of James' determinedly new "normal" life as a horor film critic rather than catastrophe chronicler. Its issues serve as the subtext for a double love story: the physical and psychological fallout of war, the ethical question about making, as Sarah admits, "a career on the sorrows of others, " and the economics of modern print publications that have serious stories fighting for space with eyeball attracting puff stuff.

Front and center we have Sarah and James, who have been too busy documenting war's casualties to make their 9-year relationship legal. There's also the less complicated counterpoint May-December relationship of their friend and editor Richard Ehrlich (Eric Bogosian) and Mandy Bloom (Alicia Silverstone), a young events planner whose blooming with child body serves as the play's time frame. At the beginning, just after James has brought a still badly wounded Sarah home to their Brooklyn loft after an extended hospital stay and Richard and Mandy visit them, her belly is still flat. The next time we see her she's visibly pregnant, and it's not long after the baby is born that we learn whether our midway through guess about the future of both couples' relationships was correct.

While Margulies brings his usual flair for writing trenchant dialogue and posing thoughtful questions but avoiding preachy polemics, Time Stands Still is once again blessed to have Daniel Sullivan give his script a handsomely detailed, subtly orchestrated production. Laura Linney, who was also in MTC's 2004 revival of Sight Unseen (another Sullivan directed production), made this a two thrilling performances week in the theater for me, the other by Liev Scheiber in A View From the Bridge (review).

Linney's performance is an extraordinary display of the power of conveying inner thoughts and feeling whether speaking or silent. But while Linney, like Schreiber, is likely to be collecting Best Actor statues at this year's various awards ceremonies, she is very much part of an ensemble production. All four of the actors fusing their characters with the finesse of a fine, comfortably compatible string quartet.

The versatile Brian D'Arcy James adds yet another gold star to a resume that ranges from solo shows to musicals (Most recently Shrek) is warm and endearing as James. Eric Bogosian's Richard is also likeable and convincing. He toasts Sarah and James as the "golden couple" through whose adventures he's lived vicariously and does his best to help them find satisfying work, realizing that Sarah especially is a " war junkie," always needing the next adrenaline fix. His relationship with Mandy is a release from a different type of battle fatigue — the stress of dealing with changing priorities at the magazine he edits and a failed marriage. As for Silverstone, who is the only member of the cast who was in the Los Angeles premiere, she manages to have Mandy start out as Richard's somewhat ditzy, if it's on your lung it's on your tongue trophy, but turns out to be a lot smarter and more sensitive. It is Mandy who gives voice to the often discussed ethical dilemma of whether photojournalists like Sarah's work is exploitative or valid.

Time Stands Still may not win another Pulitzer for Mr. Margulies, but, sad to say, it will remain timely well after this run ends and is certain to have numerous other productions. The current cast certainly sets a high watermark, for future actors to follow.

Links to other reviews of plays by Donald Margulies
Broken Sleep
Brooklyn Boy
Collected Stories-MTC . . .Collected Stories-Berkshires . . .Collected Stories-Uta Hagen
Dinner With Friends the Margulies Pulitzer Prize winner
God of Vengeance
Shipwrecked! An Entertainment(2009)
Sight Unseen-NY. . .Sight Unseen-NJ
Time Stands Still-LA

Time Stands Still by Donald Margulies
Directed by Daniel Sullivan
Cast: Eric Bogosian (Richard Ehrlich), Brian d'Arcy James (James Dodd), Laura Linney (Sarah Goodwin) and Alicia Silverstone (Mandy Bloom).
Sets by John Lee Beatty
Costumes by Rita Ryack
Lighting by Peter Kaczorowski;
Sound by Darron L West
Music by Peter Golub
Fight director: Thomas Schall
Stage Manager: Robert Bennett
Running time: 1 hour 55 minutes with an intermission
Manhattan Theater Club, at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater, 261 West 47th Street, (212) 239-6200.
From opening 1/28/10; closing 3/14/10--extended to 3/27/10- and will re-open in September at an TBA Shubert Theater.
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer at January 30th press performance
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