Cox as David Frost and Stacy Keach as Richard Nixon in "Frost/Nixon,"
on stage through Sunday at the Palace Theater. (Photo credit:
engages audience at Palace Theater
By Art Thomas
Published Jan. 21, 2009
the start of “Frost/Nixon” a bank of video screens snap on with
a loud electric buzz as power surges through them. The audience
gasps and jumps at this first sound effect in the equally electrifying
An event many of us lived through, the David Frost
interviews of disgraced, resigned president Richard Nixon are given
new life in this historical fiction treatment by Peter Morgan. It
is on stage at the Palace Theater through Sunday.
Before going further, I want to point out that Playhouse
Square wants to fill the 2500 seats of the Palace theater for each
performance, so they have made every ticket $25 — a bargain, and
a nice gesture in these times.
The key historic events forming the drama were the
recommendation by the Senate Judiciary Committee to impeach President
Nixon, his resignation shortly after, and the interviews with Frost
three years later.
Keach stars as the 37th president in "Frost/Nixon,"
on stage at the Palace Theater. (Photo credit: Carol Rosegg)
Dramatic luminary Stacy Keach doesn’t particularly
look like Nixon, but he takes on the role with the intensity of
a stage veteran. Keach’s Nixon is affable at home in California,
rattling off specific dates and anecdotes of visits by world leaders.
He is the master of the interviews, controlling the pace with 20
minute answers to simple questions. There’s no flapping jowls, but
the audience can see inside his head in the interview sequence about
Watergate. Finally, he is the “beaten, but not defeated” betrayer
of the office he held.
Alan Cox is David Frost, the TV host who had a reputation
of a playboy and less-than-competent political interviewer. Morgan’s
script is structured so that a piece of research, never before revealed,
proves that Nixon was involved with the cover-up long before he
claimed to have knowledge of the events. This may or may not be
true, but it makes for a dynamic and engrossing script.
In theater, actors use exaggerated expressions that
will “read” to the audience in remote row ZZ. In movies, close-ups
give power and magnification to very subtle facial movements. In
“Frost/Nixon,” director Michael Grandage uses TV cameras that enlarge
Nixon’s face to gigantic size on the bank of video monitors. A brilliant
moment freezes Nixon’s face just before he makes the revelation
that he did make “major mistakes” and “let down” the American people.
It was not the apology that the country hoped for, but it did help
give closure to a series of dark events in our politics.
“Frost/Nixon” has a cast of a dozen who play among
others, Frost’s girlfriend, Nixon’s Chief of Staff, and super agent
“Swifty” Lazar. He got Nixon an unprecedented $600,000 for the interviews.
Lest you think “Frost/Nixon” is dull and static debate,
know that the action rolls briskly from place to place with colorful
characters. The play has generous portions of belly laughs too.
Deserving of the awards it received in London and New York, “Frost/Nixon”
is a must-see in our Broadway Series.
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