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August 30, 2011 > Theatre Preview: Frost/Nixon at Morrisson Theatre

Theatre Preview: Frost/Nixon at Morrisson Theatre

Submitted By George Ledo, Photo by George Ledo

The Douglas Morrisson Theatre continues its 2011 Season with "Frost/Nixon" by Peter Morgan. This provocative and riveting script dramatizes the four television interviews between British talk show host David Frost and the disgraced 37th President of the United States, Richard Nixon.

Almost three years after his resignation, Nixon agrees to a series of broadcast interviews in the spring of 1977 with Frost to cover domestic and foreign affairs, the Watergate break-in and subsequent investigation. Narrated by James Reston (one of Frost's advisers and conscience of the play), Frost/Nixon is structured as a montage of short scenes and direct addresses revealing behind-the-scenes dealings in the Nixon and Frost camps, culminating in an on-the-air showdown.

Directed by Marilyn Langbehn, the production features John Hale as Nixon and Craig Souza as Frost, with Doug Brook, Jesus Fuentes, Daria Hepps, David Iverson, Renny Madlena, Jessica Robertson, and Don R. Williams.

Frost/Nixon is study of commonalities as well as contrasts. At the time of the interviews, Nixon's political life was over and playboy Frost's career was on the skids. Frost paid what would be a small fortune even today ($600,000 and a share of profits) to Nixon. Both men were desperate to rehabilitate, reclaim and redeem their images for posterity. The Watergate segment was watched by 45 million Americans and remains to this day, the largest audience for a political interview.

"Self-destruction is such an interesting thing for a dramatist," says playwright Morgan, "and what's particular to Nixon is how human the failings were that led to his downfall... What he did with Watergate and the abuses of power were the actions of a man who, despite all evidence to the contrary, thought everyone was out to get him." Morgan disavows the term "docudrama" in relation to this work and declares that there was no one objective truth about what went on during those famous interviews.

The playwright also recently admitted that for a long while, he steered clear of characterizing his play as a political play or drawing parallels to recent examples of abuses of power because he felt that political plays were not good box office. In a 2009 interview with The Telegraph, however, Morgan admitted that "Frost/Nixon" is more than a courtroom thriller, and is in fact, highly political: "a play about accountability and the prosecution, conviction and atonement of an elected public servant who violated the cherished principles of democracy and broke the law."

"Structured as a prize fight between two starkly ambitious men in professional crisis, 'Frost/Nixon' makes it clear that the competitor who controls the camera reaps the spoils."
- Ben Brantley, The New York Times.

September 2 - September 25
8 p.m. (Sundays: 2 p.m.)
Douglas Morrisson Theatre
22311 N. Third St., Hayward
(510) 881-6777 (Tues - Fri: 12:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.)
Tickets: $15 - $24

Special preview performance
Thursday, September 1

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