Time Stands Still
The four-character drama observes the strained romantic relationship between James (Brian d'Arcy James), a war reporter, and Sarah (Laura Linney), a photojournalist, after they return home from Iraq. After James left, Sarah was badly injured in a roadside bombing, leaving Sarah's face badly scarred and James feeling guilty for deserting her.
Now back at their Brooklyn loft, the couple receives awkward visits from their friend Richard (Eric Bogosian), a magazine editor, and Mandy (Alicia Silverstone), his slow-witted, younger girlfriend, who cannot seem to understand Sarah's fierce commitment to her work.
This not a play about the Iraq War, though it debates the role of the media in the war zone. It is made up primarily of naturalistic, conversational dialogue aimed at exploring the characters' complicated emotions. But because of its slight plot and undeveloped overall conflict, "Time Stands Still" feels like a smart character study instead of something greater than the sum of its parts.
Laura Linney, who has made emotional clarity the defining trademark of her career, gives another fine performance. Brian d'Arcy James, finally free of his ugly Shrek costume, emphasizes his character's good nature and pent-up frustrations. The usually outrageous Eric Bogosian is low-key in the play's least interesting role. Alicia Silverstone, playing an older variation of her character from the popular 1990s film "Clueless," manages to hold her own among the rest of the cast.
Margulies still deserves credit for exploring modern relationships in a timely context with such empathy. Here's looking forward to the upcoming Broadway revival of his 1996 play "Collected Stories," which is already set to be the Friedman Theatre's next tenant.
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 W. 47th St., 212-239-6200, mtc-nyc.org. Through Mar. 21.