Time Stands Still Review Again: More Moving This Time
Time has not stood completely still for “Time Stands Still,” which, in an unusual move, has re-opened on Broadway six months after it closed there, with almost everything intact, including Laura Linney as the injured war photographer. There are two significant changes – Christina Ricci in place of Alicia Silverstone in the four-character play…and my reaction.
When the play opened last January, I entitled my review Love, War and Glib Metaphor, and criticized the effort by playwright Donald Margulies to graft matters of war and war journalism onto what he himself has called “essentially a love story.”
I feel much the same as I did in January about the playwright’s inadequate explorations of the issues involved in reporting the world’s horrors, and in his employment of glib analogy, which is clearest in lines like the one Laura Linney is forced to say in explaining why she did not find covering wars all that hard an adjustment: “War was my parents’ house all over again, only on a different scale.” Margulies is making use of the world’s catastrophes as a dramatic device to highlight and intensify the emotional lives of his characters, but an unfortunate consequence is the (perhaps unintentional or at least ancillary) message: Tend to your own house rather than caring about the world.
Just as a photographer’s framing of what she sees changes how others perceive it, however, so now the three original cast members have re-framed the play for me. They have so grown in their roles that it is a wonder to watch them; “Time Stands Still” has become for me on second viewing a lesson in good acting. Through brief private glances, seemingly spontaneous flickers of feeling, the breathtaking and quick-changing range of tones they take with one another, Laura Linney as Sarah and Brian d’Arcy James as James are so good as a couple suffering strain in their eight-year relationship that it almost no longer matters what their arguments are about.
Eric Bogosian as their long-time friend and editor Richard does more than simply help illuminate their relationship for the audience and serve as contrast in his relationship with his new girlfriend Mandy. His facial expressions and body language are spot-on, hilarious and even touching when he is defending Mandy or trying to save her from embarrassing herself or his friends.
The girlfriend is now played by Christina Ricci, who is making her Broadway debut. As a child actress she came to fame first as Cher’s precocious nine-year-old daughter in “Mermaids” and then as the amusingly perverse and sullen daughter in the Addams Family movies, but anybody who saw Ricci in 1997’s “The Ice Storm” has formed an impression of her as an actress capable of great nuance and sophistication. Now 30 years old, Ricci is cast in “Time Stands Still” and asked to play a character so young, as Sarah puts it, that she’s embryonic. Mandy’s comments are so silly or inappropriate when we first see her – she enters the loft of James and Sarah carrying two mylar balloons “Get Well Soon” and “Welcome Back” — that she seems initially to serve as little more than comic relief. We eventually see there is another, more respectful purpose to this character, a loyal, caring person who, despite her naïveté, is in touch with her feelings to such a degree that her emotional reactions amount to something like common sense. She and her relationship with Richard thus offer an alternative, or at least a contrast, to the priorities of Sarah’s life. Unlike Alicia Silverstone, though, Christina Ricci seems to be playing Mandy not as an enthusiastic innocent but as a dolt. Her blank, blink-less stares in the first act make less plausible her transformation in the second.
Ricci has proven herself a talented enough performer that she, too, is sure to grow into her role, with time.
Time Stands Still
Cort Theater (138 West 48th Street)
By Donald Margulies
Directed by Daniel Sullivan
Scenic design by John Lee Beatty, costume design by Rita Ryack, lighting design by Peter Kaczorowski, sound design by Darron West, original music by Peter Golubm, stunt coordinator Thomas Schall
Cast: Laura Linney (as Sarah), Brian d’Arcy James (as James), Eric Bogosian (as Richard), Christina Ricci (as Mandy)
Running time: One hour, 50 minutes, including one 15 minute intermission
Ticket prices: $56-$121.50. Premium seating as high as $251.50. Standing room (when available) $26.50. Apparently no rush or student discounts.
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