Frost / Nixon Theatre Review - Art Imitating Politics

Stacy Keach as fallen president Richard M. Nixon in Frost/Nixon


In the summer of 1974, Richard Nixon ( Stacy Keach) became the first U.S. President to resign from office under threat of impeachment. In the spring of 1977, British talk show host David Frost ( Alan Cox) landed the coveted first interviews with the fallen president since his departure from office. The two men entered into a seemingly lopsided contest of wills from very different vantage points, but ironically, with the exact same objective: to remake his public identity into the personal image that he has of himself.

Stacy Keach and Ted Koch in "Frost/Nixon"

                                                    Nixon has retreated to Orange County to avoid the picketers that converge on his home on the East Coast. It is his friend and famous Hollywood dealmaker Swifty Lazar ( Stephen Rowe) who tells him of the lightweight talk show host who wants to interview him. Thanks to the pardon issued by President Ford, Nixon is safe from self-incrimination and sees the request an easy payday and the opportunity to paint his self-portrait in a better light. In his corner and negotiating terms on his behalf is his former Chief of Staff Jack Brennan ( Ted Koch).

Flamboyant talk show host David Frost is interviewing local celebrities in Sydney, Australia, already having lost his show in New York and on the verge of losing the one in Australia as well. He yearns to make his way back to New York where the prestige and lifestyle best suit his hedonistic nature. 

Alan Cox as David Frost in "Frost/Nixon"

                                                       His letter requesting an interview was an answered Hail Mary and he too quickly assembles his team: a fellow British producer John Birt ( Antony Hagopian) and two American producing phenom Bob Zelnick ( Bob Ari) and liberal and Nixon obsessionist Jim Reston ( Brian Sgambati).

With lengthy preparations on both sides, the series of interviews play out like a mismatched prize fight with the former president winning by TKO, despite all adjustment Team Frost try to make. Frost is doubly burdened with the unexpectedly difficult task of finding funding for the grand endeavor. Everything rests on the success or failure of the final interview session. The topic is to be Watergate.

From top to bottom, this cast is terrific. With only a few set pieces at their disposal, the ensemble create and maintain great energy and drama in a piece that is essentially about ideas and talking; getting someone to say something. Keach delivers truly dynamic Hamlet-esque monologues with the greatest of easy. Cox imbues Frost is a comically adolescent indomitable spirit one moment, and a rich mature depth the next. Koch and Sgambati do a great job sharing the narrator duties.

(l to r) Antony Hagopian, Alan Cox, Bob Ari & Brian Sgambati in Frost/Nixon

Peter Morgan’s Frost/Nixon is surprisingly accessible for those not intimately acquainted with the details of Nixon’s historical descent into infamy. Because Morgan treats these characters as people instead of icons within political history, there is a human drama going on that reach beyond politics proper. While Alan Cox as the character of Frost carried the obvious burden of the comedy of the piece, Morgan crafts a portrayal of Nixon that is witty, good-natured, fun and at times, even quite goofy. It is easy to like and laugh with this Nixon were it not for his political failings. In fact, in the midst of all the discussion about accountability and political right and wrong, every character in this piece has something to lose, personally.

Frost/Nixon at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles

“One will get the spotlight, the other will get the wilderness.”

Frost / Nixon is in limited run March 11 through March 29, 2009 at the Ahmanson Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. Frost / Nixon is performed in one act with no intermission.

Ticket Information: (213) 628-2772

www.centertheatregroup.com

Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg

Top of Page

Join Splash Magazines
Feature Article

Tempflow™ and Tempur-Pedic® Reviews - What 35 Hours of Research Uncovered

Want Your Business to Male a Splash