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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at Manhattan Theatre Club’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre


  Laura Linney and Brian d'Arcy James/ Ph: Joan Marcus

With most Americans now worrying more about the economy and healthcare than the state of affairs in Iraq, it’s an excellent time for a play about the physical and psychological toll a war takes on the journalists who cover it. Donald Margulies’ Time Stands Still serves as a reminder that soldiers and innocent civilians are not  the only ones who bear life-altering scars after spending time in a war zone. As the playwright deftly points out, a survivor’s relationships may never be the same after being nearly blown up by a bomb.
Veteran photographer Sarah (Laura Linney) was in a jeep that hit a roadside bomb in Iraq. Her translator died in the accident, so Sarah is lucky to be returning to her spacious Williamsburg loft with her longtime boyfriend James (Brian d’Arcy James). A writer who also spent time in Iraq, James wasn’t with Sarah when she was wounded. But he did fly to Germany and brought her back from the hospital. When the play opens she is painfully entering with her left leg in a brace, her left arm in a sling, and with scars on her face.
Smart, acerbic, and quick-tempered, Sarah is a terrific part for Linney. The actress sinks her teeth into the dramatic moments but is just as effective when the tone is less somber. After she meets Mandy (Alicia Silverstone), the much younger girlfriend of her editor and friend Richard (Eric Bogosian), Sarah remarks, “There’s young and there’s…embryonic. This girl is a lightweight.” Linney delivers the put-down with just the right amount of condescension.
Margulies gives all four characters sharp dialogue that usually reveals something about them and what they think of the other characters. Best of all, he does it subtly enough that we don’t notice. One of the few times the dialogue rings false is when Richard accuses Sarah of having a “death wish” because she wants to return to Iraq after her injuries have healed. It seems unlikely that a hardboiled editor wouldn’t approve of a photojournalist who wants to cover wars.
What may be more off-putting to some audience members is that Time Stands Still doesn’t have a substantial plot, and the plot it has is rather predictable. Once we learn that Sarah was more than just friends with her translator  it’s clear that things are going to become complicated between her and James. And while the ending is as believable as the rest of the play, it’s not very satisfying.
Fans of Linney, who is as capable onstage as she is on screen, won’t be disappointed by her performance, however. She shows a range of emotions and makes Sarah quite compelling (if not always likable). d’Arcy James squares off nicely with Linney, especially when James and Sarah get into raw, painfully real arguments. Anyone who has only seen him in musicals like Shrek and Next to Normal may be surprised that he’s a fine dramatic actor as well. Bogosian and Silverstone are both well cast in parts that are fleshed out but ultimately not as interesting as the two central roles. The ever-reliable Daniel Sullivan, who has directed other Margulies plays like Sight Unseen and Dinner With Friends, delivers another thoughtful, well-paced, and sensitively acted production.  


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