In Woody Allen’s Bananas, a pushy Howard Cosell thrusts a microphone into the face of a Central American dictator who’s been fatally shot and asks the man how it feels to be dying. The absurdity of such an impolite (to say the least) intrusion into a person’s final moments gets a big laugh.
What was funny in 1971 isn’t a joke anymore. It’s become accepted practice now…in order to bear witness? To shed light on atrocity? To prick the conscience of those miles from harm’s way? It’s now de rigeur for photojournalists to capture the face of a human (or animal) as the poor creature expires. Does it move nations to cease inhumane practices? Does it spur John Q. Public to action? Most people have become inured to the images. Some can’t watch the news because they’re not.
Playwright Donald Margulies debates the practice of up close and personal journalism from a domestic perspective in his play, TIME STANDS STILL. A journalist and a photographer, both stateside to recover from battle scars, wrestle with whether they’ll get married, leave risk behind or return to the war. She questions her own motives, fearing she’s been “living off the sorrows of strangers.” He would be just as happy out of the fray, trying to live like everyone else for a change.
Director Scott Edmiston’s smart production (playing at the Lyric Stage through March 17th) engages us with passion. Surprisingly enough, it’s not in the character of the brave, wounded photojournalist (Laura Latreille). The most passionate characters turn out to be her journalist/partner (Barlow Adamson in a tour de force defending their relationship) and the very young, naïve wife (a delightful Erica Spyres) of an old friend (Jeremiah Kissel) who lectures her jaded elders on the beauty and joy to be found in the world.
If only it weren’t the case but life has imitated art in the death of American foreign correspondent Marie Colvin who died in Syria alongside French photojournalist Remi Ochlik. In her dispatches to the British Sunday Times, she described a scene almost identical to one Margulies wrote for Latreille’s character in TIME STANDS STILL.
Does it stand still or does it just repeat itself over and over? Will the killing ever stop?