When you think of the current political news climate, you may not immediately connect it to the 1970s. TheatreWorks’ production of Frost/Nixon will change your perspective.
Despite the fact that the show was first performed in 2006 about a (then) 30-year-old event, the story feels achingly poignant to our times. The play serves to explain the psyches and circumstances that lead to the turbulent downfall of President Richard Nixon. This culminates in a show that feels like it could be easily happen in today’s world and will shock you with its timeliness.
Frost/Nixon tells the story of the interview between British TV personality, David Frost and former U.S. President, Richard Nixon. At times funny and at times gut wrenching, the show explores the nature of politics, culture and media through the stories of these two radically different and yet surprisingly similar men. The show alternates perspectives between Nixon’s group of supporters and Frost’s team of reporters and entertainers, concluding in the series of interviews that would define both of their legacies.
Frost/Nixon is a careful exploration of two men driven to redeem themselves by circumstance and their own flaws. The play is written by Peter Morgan, best known as the creator of the Golden Globe-winning Netflix series, The Crown. Although most of his work is about British politics, in this play, Morgan shows that he is equally capable of dramatizing the American political system.
The best moments of the play are when you watch the two teams behind these iconic men plan and strategize in order to create the distilled moments we see on screen. It can be difficult to show the work that goes on behind the scenes of great moments, yet this seems to be where Morgan excels. He makes historical people into truly three-dimensional characters, revealing their fears and motivations in surprising ways.
The two lead actors are very true to their real-life counterparts. Jeremy Webb has the benefit of looking a great deal like David Frost to help in his transformation. But perhaps Allen McCullough’s performance is all the more impressive for looking very little like Richard Nixon. Despite this, McCullough does a wonderful job of bringing the spirit of the man to life. He nails the timber of his speech and the careful reserve that can be seen in Nixon’s many interviews.
Frost/Nixon is a hauntingly relevant tale that seems as applicable to our own time as to its setting in the 1970s. The show is well written and solidly performed. It is not the best show that TheatreWorks has put on this season, but it is definitely worth seeing.
TheatreWorks’ production of Frost/Nixon is playing now through February 10, 2019 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro Street. The show runs about one hour and 45 minutes with no intermission. Tickets range from $40 - $100 with discounts available for seniors, educators and patrons under 35.
Photos courtesy of Kevin Berne