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Time Stands Still

Christina Ricci's performance in Donald Margulies' play pales in comparison to the brilliance of co-stars Laura Linney, Brian d'Arcy James, and Eric Bogosian. logo
Laura Linney, Brian d'Arcy James, Eric Bogosian,
and Christina Ricci in Time Stands Still
(© Joan Marcus)
Perhaps it's unfair to judge Christina Ricci's Broadway debut in Donald Margulies' Time Stands Still, at the Cort Theatre, against the brilliance of her co-stars Laura Linney, Brian d'Arcy James, and Eric Bogosian, all of whom starred in the show's earlier mounting at Manhattan Theatre Club's Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. Admittedly, Ricci -- who is best known for her film work -- hits most of her marks. But she simply pales in comparison to these accomplished stage veterans.

Luckily for audiences, Margulies' layered and thought-provoking drama, beautifully directed by Daniel Sullivan, is not primarily about Ricci's character, and the overall potency of the work remains undiminished.

The story revolves around photographer Sarah (Linney) and writer James (d'Arcy James). At the beginning of the play, they are returning from the Middle East, with the former bearing the physical scars from a roadside bombing and the latter still recuperating from a mental breakdown due to witnessing another wartime atrocity. The two have been an unmarried couple for eight-and-a-half years, and the forced downtime in their Williamsburg apartment (nicely rendered by scenic designer John Lee Beatty) causes them to reevaluate not only their relationship, but the trajectory of their careers.

Ricci portrays Mandy, the new, much younger girlfriend of Sarah's photo editor and good friend Richard (Bogosian) and the most one-dimensional of the characters that Margulies has written. Sarah initially dismisses Mandy as "a lightweight," and Ricci is able to convey the naïve characteristics that cause Sarah to make such a pronouncement. But more problematically, the actress also seems to be commenting upon her part, playing up Mandy's vapid demeanor.

Even worse, Ricci has difficulty in a crucial act one scene in which Mandy becomes visibly upset after seeing some of Sarah's photographs that document a particularly grisly event. The performer's tears here seem forced and unconvincing. She does better in the second act, as Mandy's protectiveness of both Richard and their newborn child allows Ricci to strike a harder-edged tone that demonstrates a strength of will that Mandy did not seem to previously possess.

Linney once again delivers a powerful performance -- one that seems to have grown even more complex since I last saw the play. The actress demonstrates the grit and stubbornness that makes Sarah admirable but not always likable. But she also lets us see Sarah's inner doubts, and the tough exterior usually on display makes the character's occasional moments of vulnerability even more moving.

For his part, d'Arcy James is completely convincing as a principled man with a fervent belief in the good that his work does, who is also tired and wanting a more comfortable life than he's had so far. Bogosian has great rapport with his co-stars, showing subtle shades in Richard's interaction with Sarah and James, as he both craves their approval and demands that they respect him regardless.

Indeed, all four performers are attuned to the changing rhythms of the play, and can hit their laugh lines full-out while also delving into the darker depths of the script for an emotional payoff.

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