Time Stand Still (photo by Michael Lamont) is Donald Margulies' newest work, being given its world premiere at the Geffen Playhouse. It would be nice to see our institutional theaters dip a bit deeper into the lake of American playwrights (perhaps lesser-known ones) so that, as with the National Theatre of Great Britain for example, the theaters can take credit for promoting new voices, rather than just riding on the coattails of the established ones, but that's not the world we live in.
It is, nonetheless, a relief and a pleasure to see such thoughtful and well-crafted new writing on the stage. Margulies is a compassionate observer of human behavior. Wounded photo journalist Sarah (Anna Gunn), just returned to her Brooklyn digs from a German hospital after being struck by a roadside bomb in Iraq, barks at her life partner, a print journalist named James (David Harbour), over his concerned reluctance to offer her a cup of coffee in public; her pithy attack seems on the surface to be over nothing but a cup of coffee.
The play is actually about all that lies underneath -- the morality of her career as a photo-journalist that feeds on the miseries on the world, and spews it back in the form of coffee-table books.
In this latest entry into his theatrical obsession on the relationship between story-telling and living, dramatist Margulies tilts his hand in opposition to journalists who bring bad news state-side -- as Beckett says, "the tears of the world are a constant quantity" -- so what's the point of dwelling on it? One of Margulies' sourer points is the service such journalists provides to liberal consumers who use bad news in the press to fuel their outrage over injustice, and to assuage their guilt over doing nothing about it.
But would the world really be better without such journalists, and without those images? It was such images, after all, that helped bring the Vietnam War to a halt, which is why in later wars, all nations now "embed" and monitor the "loyalty" of journalists covering their wars. Critical journalists get picked off with almost as much frequency as enemy soldiers.
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Check back here on Monday after noon for this weekend's NEW REVIEWS of Patrick McGowan's Film, about Buster Keaton, Samuel Beckett and Alan Schneider, at Theatre of NOTE; Michael Sargent's Grand Motel about a washed-up degenerate playwright from the South (our favorite kind!), at the Unknown Theater in Hollywood; Willard Manus' Blues for Central Avenue, about L.A.'s downtown, post WWII, at the Write Act Repertory Company, also in Hollywood; Steven Fales' Missionary Position, at the Celebration Theatre; Jack Freiberger's Call Me Mr. Fry about an inner-city L.A. schoolteacher, presented by Crown City Theatre Company; The Production Company's revival of Jonathan Tolins' The Twilight of the Golds, George Damian's Strip at the Hayworth, based on the author's experiences as a manager and DJ at a strip club; The Jazz Age, the west coast premiere of Allan Knee's play about what constitutes inspiration; and the world premiere of Erin Kamler's Divorce! The Musical at the Hudson Mainstage.
At your fingertips: This week's THEATER FEATURE on Minsky's at the Ahmanson; the 30th annual L.A. Weekly Theater Awards NOMINEES; where to PURCHASE tickets. Last weekend's NEW THEATER REVIEWS and this coming week's COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS.
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When he was four years old, comedian Doug Motel fell off his bunk bed and split his head open. But instead of seeing stars, Doug saw the entire Universe: "I was floating above my body and looked down to see my mother putting pressure onto my loose bleeding scalp! Later, my room started spinning and spinning clockwise until the room, our apartment and our whole city disappeared and it's place was a giant orb that spoke to me."
His solo show, StarDUST takes audiences weaves "personal adventures, new discoveries in quantum physics and current events into a life-changing experience that leaves audiences enlivened and filled with hope for the future."
Motel's Shiva Arms won the L.A. Weekly's best Solo Performance Award.
StarDUST is being performed Feb. 13th & 14th, 8 p.m. Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center, 3050 E. Los Angeles Avenue, Simi Valley. Call (805) 583-7900, or visit Motel's website.
Groundings co-founder Libby Skala presents her one woman show about her Austrian grandmother-actress, who fled the Third Reich, worked in an NYC zipper factory and wound up on the silver screen oppposite Sydney Poitier.
Groundlings Theatre, 7307 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles. Monday, March 2, 8 p.m.(323) 934-4747.
A TERRIFIC TALE OF ANCIENT TERROR
Aaron Henne's play is being read tonight, Friday the 13th, 8:30 p.m. at Son of Semele Ensemble, 3301 Beverly Boulevard, Free, no reservation required.
A workshop production of John Patrick Shanley's newest play (a musical with songs by Henry Krieger) is being presented at the Coast Playhouse, 8325 Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood, beginning Tuesday, February 17, 8 p.m. and continuing for two weeks through Saturday, February 28. For tickets, call (800) 595-4849.