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.
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.
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.
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.
“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
Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg