Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Time Stands Still

Time Stands Still at Broadway's Cort Theatre
Gratuitous Violins rating: *** out of ****

In Time Stands Still, James Dodd and Sarah Goodwin are a reporter and a photographer who have spent their working lives moving from one world hot spot to the next. Now the couple is at a crossroads, both personally and professionally.

Laura Linney's Sarah has been badly injured in a roadside bombing in Iraq. Fearless and focused, she's eager to get back into the action. For James, played by Brian d'Arcy James, things have gotten a bit fuzzy. He's shaken by the incident and ready for a change.

Added to the mix is Eric Bogosian as Richard Ehrlich, the couple's friend and a magazine photo editor. His current girlfriend is the much younger Mandy Bloom, played by Christina Ricci in her Broadway debut.

I thought Bogosian was good as the clearly smitten Richard. He's supportive of Sarah and James but fighting his own uphill battle against the public's dwindling appetite for news from places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ricci's Mandy, an event planner, seemed mismatched with Richard. I understand an older man falling for a younger woman, just not this woman. Ricci plays her as sweet and perky but she also seems to be someone who's not much interested in the larger world.

What I think playwright Donald Margulies does well in Time Stands Still is explore how the media views itself versus how it appears to outsiders. I don't think there's anything very revelatory but he creates characters who, at least to me, were recognizable.

While I've never reported from a war zone, I know the adrenaline rush that comes from working on a big story, as well as the certainty that you're doing something vital. As Sarah explains when Mandy asks how she can take pictures of the wounded instead of helping them, "If it weren't for people like me, the ones with the cameras, who would know? Who would care?"

Despite the media critique, at its heart Time Stands Still is a love story. (I can see this becoming a popular play for regional theatres - four actors, one set: the couple's cozy apartment, designed by John Lee Beatty.)

Linney and D'Arcy James are terrific as two people struggling to come to terms with changes in their life together. I previously saw D'Arcy James in Shrek - a musical I was mixed about - and it was hard to get a take on him under that ogre costume. But here, I enjoyed him so much - he just exudes warmth.

It seems ironic that Sarah and James, who've have been through so much in so many dangerous places, find their relationship at its most stressful when they're in the peaceful and comfortable confines of New York City.

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