Time Stands Still, by Pulitzer Prize winner Donald Margulies, premiered on Broadway last January. It played to mostly sold-out houses for three months and was nominated for a Tony for Best Play, but Manhattan Theatre Club had to keep it a limited run because the company had a show booked in its Samuel J. Friedman Theatre for the spring and because star Laura Linney had to go off to shoot her new Showtime series The Big C. Now MTC has brought Time Stands Still back for an open-ended run, with three-quarters of its original cast intact. The drama is currently in previews at the Cort Theatre prior to its reopening on October 7. Linney resumes her role as Sarah, a photojournalist who was badly injured covering the war in Iraq and has returned home to New York to recuperate and perhaps chart a new course in her career. She stars opposite Brian d’Arcy James as Sarah’s journalist boyfriend, James, who had a nervous breakdown while reporting from Iraq and is definitely ready for a new line of work. Rounding out the cast are Eric Bogosian as Richard, Sarah’s friend and editor, and Christina Ricci as Mandy, Richard’s young girlfriend. Ricci is making her theater acting debut in Time Stands Still, in a role originated last winter by Alicia Silverstone. All four actors spoke with BroadwayWorld shortly before the start of previews on September 23.
You’ve played a number of headstrong women in your career. What makes this one unique?
This one is unique because of what she does and how she spends her time. There aren’t many women who are conflict photographers, who have a devotion and a commitment to traveling to the most dangerous places in the world, photographing what’s going on there, so that the rest of us can have knowledge of what’s happening.
Is she judged more harshly than a man who behaves the same way would be?
Probably. But I think anyone who has a vocation, or if you’re involved in something that can take over your entire life, that’s a challenge for anyone regardless of sex or profession.
How hard is it to play someone who pushes away the person she loves?
Oh, but I don’t think she is...
...who refuses to make the compromises needed to keep her relationship going?
It’s not hard to play because that’s what I’m supposed to play [laughs]. I think it’s what a lot of people have to navigate themselves through when they have a vocation. A lot of us in the arts, certainly—you know, this world can devour every inch of time you have, because you want to give it to it, you love it so much, there’s a sense that it’s bigger than you are. I think for a lot of people, it’s difficult on a relationship when you have a calling.
How is Sarah similar to Patricia in Donald Margulies’ Sight Unseen, whom you also played on Broadway?
They’re wildly different. You know, my mind is so in one that I can’t even think about the other. What is similar is they’re both plays that have four people, the structure of the plays is tight and sound. The dialogue between the four flies as nimbly as the other play. I can talk more about that than comparing the characters. If you’re working on something and you’re asked to talk about it thematically, it’s difficult to do. It’s weird to use a different perspective that way when you’re so immersed in it.
You could make a living now working just in TV and film. Why is it important to you to continue working on stage as well?
I love the theater. I grew up in the theater: My father’s a playwright, I grew up in Manhattan. It’s an enormous part of who I am, and it’s an enormous part of who I have to be.
BRIAN D’ARCY JAMES
Did you speak with any war correspondents or do other research for this role?
Yeah, absolutely. I read a lot of fascinating and inspiring books: [one by] Richard Engel, an NBC correspondent, called War Journal. Dexter Filkins, a New York Times reporter who won a Pulitzer—his book, The Forever War. Bob Woodruff, who, if you recall, was the ABC anchor who was injured in a roadside bomb. He gave us his time and his expertise and talked to us about his experience. He’s an incredible, incredible guy—and I’m not just saying that because he’s from Michigan. I think what he did was heroic. He was so generous with his time and his experience...for all of us. We did seminar work with photojournalism, met with a lot of photographers who are war journalists. So we had a lot of wonderful research in our hands, and also stuff that I’ve been able to cultivate by reading books.