Spring arrives this week with a wide variety of choices in the performing arts. My “must-see” pick for the week is “Time Stands Still,” a taut, powerful drama by Donald Margulies. It was a hit on Broadway and Los Angeles, and is proving equally popular at The Public Theatre of Lewiston-Auburn.

Joy Kills Sorrow is a contemporary ensemble that’s solidly rooted in traditional music. They’re playing Portland’s One Longfellow Square this Saturday.

The Portland String Quartet’s season continues on Sunday. Featured guests will be the Spelaeus String Quartet, boasting a strong connection to the PSQ and southern Maine.

Portland Ovations hosts a performance by an Argentinean threesome on March 28. The Pablo Ziegler Trio specializes in Argentina’s rich tango music in the tradition of Astor Piazzolla.

‘Time Stands Still’

Is there any such thing as a “neutral observer?” What is meant by neutral? Does the definition depend on the context? Or does it exist in the abstract? Do the answers change with a change in perspective?

Those are among a bundle of provocative and intriguing questions that are thoughtfully posed but only partially answered in “Time Stands Still,” the powerful 2009 drama by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Donald Margulies.

“Time Stands Still” unfolds over the course of several months in a New York apartment, when globetrotting photojournalist Sarah (Janet Mitchko) returns home to recuperate after being severely injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq. She is comforted by longtime boyfriend James (Evan Mueller), a reporter who covered many of the same wars and upheavals in the Third World. They are visited by a news magazine editor (David Newer) and his air-headed fiancee (Jessica DiGiovanni). All four are fully professional actors.

Margulies’ play presents four perspectives on today’s gory news, the newsmakers, those who report the news and those who stay home and read it. Like most such questions in the real world, there is no satisfactory resolution. But it’s a fascinating mental journey, and well worth the short trek to Lewiston to see.

The Public Theatre, corner of Maple and Lisbon in Lewiston, presents “Time Stands Still” March 21-24 with 7:30 p.m. performances Thursday and Friday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Call 782-3200.

Joy Kills Sorrow

A Boston-based string band comprising musicians who have had conservatory training in either classical or jazz will perform this Saturday at Portland’s One Longfellow Square.

Joy Kills Sorrow brings together an eclectic mix of musicians who have collectively discovered new acoustic territory. The ensemble is an amalgamation of string players who grew up listening to indie-rock, jazz, and pop music. They churn out impressive tunes with a very contemporary sensibility. The title of their latest CD is suggestive: “This Unknown Science.”

Catch Joy Kills Sorrow at 8 p.m. March 23 at One Longfellow Square, corner of State and Congress in Portland. Call 761-1757.

Spelaeus String Quartet

Ever since first violinist Stephen Kecskemethy was sidelined by illness, the Portland String Quartet has been operating in one of two modes. In some cases they’ve brought in violinist friends to substitute for their colleague. In other instances, they’ve invited entire ensembles who are connected to the PSQ in some way.

For this Sunday’s fourth concert of the PSQ’s 2012-2013 season, the latter mode is in effect. The young Spelaeus String Quartet, under the leadership of violinist Patrick Doane, will present a varied program of classical and modern works.

Doane is a native of Kennebunk who now lives and teaches in New York. As a younger man he studied with PSQ second violinist Ron Lantz and has appeared with the PSQ twice before. Doane is a Juilliard School graduate with a concentration in violin performance and composition. For this concert, he’ll be playing one of his own works.

The opener will be George Gershwin’s “Lullaby,” scored for string quartet. The two classical pieces will be Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s String Quartet in G Major (K. 387), one of the composer’s breakthrough efforts in the genre, and Robert Schumann’s String Quartet in A Minor (Op. 41, No. 1), which represented a major foray into the field of chamber music.

Doane’s “Eppur Si Muove” was written earlier this year. The three-part composition was inspired by a walk in the Maine woods. Its Latin title was inspired by a statement by Renaissance astronomer Galileo about the earth’s movement through the universe.

Catch the Spelaeus String Quartet at 2 p.m. March 24 at Woodford’s Congregational Church, 202 Woodford St. in Portland. Call the LARK Society at 761-1522.

Pablo Ziegler Trio for Nuevo Tango

The tango is Argentina’s signature dance and musical form, a form of street art that was transformed for the stage and concert hall in the early 20th century by Astor Piazzolla. Its transformations continue to the present, and the Pablo Ziegler Trio for Nuevo Tango is one of today’s premier iterations. This notable threesome is coming to the Port City on March 28 under the aegis of Portland Ovations.

Born in Argentina, Pablo Ziegler started playing piano with jazz groups at age 14 and solo concerts at age 18 and then went on to be the pianist for Piazzolla’s own quintet for over 10 years. Since then he has taken the classical tango form to new levels with his jazz-influenced improvisation and percussive, yet lyrical use of piano.

Ziegler is an artist who inspires awe and devotion whenever he performs, and has won both a Grammy and Latin Grammy Award. For his Portland appearance Ziegler will be joined by guitarist Claudio Ragazzi and bandoneon player Hector del Curto. The bandoneon is a form of accordion, and was one of Piazzolla’s favorite instruments.

Ziegler has been hailed as today’s outstanding interpreter of tango music. A critic for the Chicago Tribune commented, “There’s no question that Ziegler takes the tango to levels of sophistication and refinement probably undreamed of by Piazzolla.”

Catch the Pablo Ziegler Trio for Nuevo Tango at the Abromson Community Education Center, 88 Bedford St. on the University of Southern Maine’s Portland campus at 7:30 p.m. March 28. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

Sidebar Elements

A writer and photographer return to New York after years of covering wars and upheavals in the Third World, only to discover that the conflicts continue in their New York apartment. That’s the gist of “Time Stands Still,” a drama that runs through this weekend at The Public Theatre of Lewiston-Auburn.

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