Broadway Stands Still

time-stands-still-playTime Stands Still Cort Theater, NYC In a theatrical world weighted down by revivals, it is always refreshing to see an original play go into a Broadway house, but discouraging when the new ends up feeling much like the old. Donald Margulies's Time Stands Still is one of those plays: it is a new work, it is a fairly solid production with a passable cast and it ultimately fails to leave any lasting marks. Margulies seems to be pushing for something deeper than his play is able to wrap itself around. He attempts to use the banality of the safe and sheltered lives of people in the United States, put in contrast with talk of the horrors experienced by those in other, war-torn countries, to make a statement about reality and detachment, but the contrast fails to resonate and we are left with the banality. The end result is a pleasant slice-of-life drama that follows two mildly engaging couples that could have been easily captured on a television drama made for Lifetime. On the whole, the characters lack depth and talk far more than they take action during our time with them, which ties in with the attempted themes, but doesn't make for a compelling night of theater. Considering the limitations of what Margulies put on the page, the piece's four actors make do with what they are given. Laura Linney delivers a committed performance, layered with subtext and inner dialogues that read clearly in her expressions and body language. Christina Ricci (replacing Alicia Silverstone after the production's summer hiatus) makes a surprising departure from her regularly dark and moody film characters, bringing us a light and cheery interpretation of Mandy Bloom. On a surface level it was amusing to watch Ricci play a person that Wednesday Adams would have despised. Brian d'Arcy James was competent but not particularly memorable, and Eric Bogosian, also proficient, takes home the prize for least utilized actor in the play. Director Daniel Sullivan offers little to help the inadequacies of the script and instructs the actors to move about on the stage, devoid of dramatic tension. Scenic designer John Lee Beatty contributes to the problems of staging by providing a minimum of usable space. Beatty's design is beautifully realistic but not extremely functional for theatrical purposes. With so few new plays making it to the Broadway stage, and even fewer new playwrights, it is all the more aggravating to see producers pushing such bland material instead of taking on new plays that could actually make a difference. August: Osage County is one of the few recent contradictions to this complaint, and even that was a far cry from the innovative leaps that were made in more distant decades. All this combines to make one wonder if the American Theater is still a relevant, breathing art form or just another strange way of sucking money out of the general public while going through the motions of an archaic tradition. - C. Jefferson Thom (photo: Joan Marcus) cj_thomMr. Thom lives in New York City and walks dogs, writes plays, and loves dissecting pop culture.