‘Time Stands Still,’ a Play for All Journalists

As if the reality of media layoffs and non-existant newspaper readerships wasn’t enough of a reason for journalists to take up drinking, along comes Broadway’s ‘Time Stands Still,’ a play focusing on the emotional breakdown of a war correspondent.

Written by Donald Margulies and directed by Daniel Sullivan, ‘Time Stands Still’ touches on the always relevant, yet often sidelined, subject of journalism. This at a time when the profession is battling e-readers and blogs — formats that erase the desire for hard copy newspapers and day-late stories.

While ‘Time Stands Still’ lacks enough focus to drive home the point that hard working journalists give up comfort and love to pursue their calling, the subject is touched upon throughout the play. Laura Linney tackles the role of a war photojournalist that has recently suffered a near-death experience while reporting from the Middle East. Riddled with scars, both physical and emotional, she carries the baggage of front-line reporting. Death, devastation and futility are common themes journalists encounter when covering disaster and war zones. Where the play succeeds is in its slow-paced portrayal of an emotional meltdown.

Linney’s character hobbles back to a New York City apartment with her long-time lover, also a conflicted journalist, and spends the entire play fighting an urge to return to the Middle East. It’s an emotional battle for her, because returning to work would mean losing her boyfriend and risking further injury.

Most of the play focuses not on journalism as a whole, rather, on the emotional hardships associated with love and how people settle for something comfortable in life rather than going it alone. Linney’s boyfriend, Brian d’Arcy James, suffers post traumatic stress disorder following troubles in a war zone and decides he wants to settle down, raise a family, and spend his days obsessing over horror movies.

Eric Bogosian is a magazine editor suffering a mid-life crisis that takes the shape of a simple-minded Alicia Silverstone. After spending years with an over-analitical woman, Bogosian opts for a pretty, young face that he finds comfort in.

By the end of ‘Time Stands Still,’ Linney stands alone, the only one of her cohorts willing to sacrifice for the journalistic cause. Such actions can be read as heroic amongst the young journalists springing up from the Columbia Universities and North Westerns of the world — I’ll own up to being a Columbia Journalism School alum — but to many watching the play, it might seem tragic that Linney’s character finds solace in a life of torment.

After all, when you read the news for free online, be it blog or the New York Times via an iPhone, how tragic it must be to imagine someone risking their lives to write up that quick blurb read between subway stops. Yet, as ‘Time Stands Still’ points out, some stories require a journalist willing to forgo a life of comfort for the greater good. The fact that Linney’s character is unable to give up on her life-long pursuit of journalistic truth is a message the public and media leaders alike must pay attention to.

Published by The Huffington Post on February 1, 2010.


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