Written by Donald Margulies
Directed by Lynne Meadow
Starring Linda Lavin, Sarah Paulson
April 6-June 13, 2010
Friedman Theater, 252 West 47th Street
Pulitzer Prize winner for his wryly-observed Dinner with Friends, Donald Margulies has also written Sight Unseen, Brooklyn Boy and, earlier this year, the Tony-nominated Time Stands Still at the Manhattan Theater Club, which ends its season reviving his 1996 two-hander, Collected Stories, containing the most stimulating onstage talk anywhere.
Margulies’ plays are moral without moralizing: Time Stands Still deals with important post-9/11 matters—like liberal guilt, which became even more pronounced post-Iraq and Katrina—but couching those concerns in an involving drama about two different couples whose relationships don’t embody the causes they espouse.
In fleetly written scenes, Margulies dissects a society where aspects of anyone’s lives, no matter how secretive, are fodder for others to make public, no matter how gossipy. The women’s discussions range from Lisa’s embarrassingly valley-girlish inflections to Ruth’s reminisces about the great writers she met when she first came to the city. In the middle is a pointed—and, it turns out, pivotal—argument over Woody Allen’s affair with Mia Farrow’s daughter Soon Yi, to Lisa’s consternation and Ruth’s rationalizing. Throughout, there is Margulies’ adult, crisp dialogue to propel it all forward.
Linda Lavin’s commanding Ruth has a firm grasp of her many contradictions, only turning uncomfortably shrill during the ladies’ final blow-up. Sarah Paulson’s Lisa isn’t as fully-realized (more a fault of the author than the actress), but the actress nicely catches both the young upstart and the mature author who gives a spirited defense against Ruth’s charge that she stole her life for a new book.
Lynne Meadow’s slyly understated direction never lets the women’s talk go slack. If Collected Stories isn’t top-drawer Margulies, there’s much food for thought in this small story with large reverberations.
originally posted on timessquare.com