Sunday, September 12, 2010

Historic Interviews

by Peter Morgan

"I have never been a quitter. To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body, but as president, I must put the interest of America first."
- Richard Nixon's resignation speech, Aug. 8, 1974

I moved to Chicago in the summer of 1973. That summer the news was filled with the ongoing investigation into the Watergate burglary and its cover up by President Nixon which culminated in 1974 with his resignation. I remember following this story as I was starting out my career, but what I do not remember was the series of televised interviews of Nixon conducted by David Frost in the spring of 1977. The fourth and final interview was reportedly seen by 45 million Americans of which I was not one. I was in the audience today, however, for a performance of Peter Morgan's play, Frost/Nixon, directed by Louis Contey at the TimeLine Theatre Company in Chicago.

This production is the Chicago premiere of the play which originally premiered in London in 2006 and on Broadway in 2007. With Terry Hamilton as Nixon and Andrew Carter as Frost both actors were excellent in portraying these larger-than-life characters. The ensemble supporting them was also excellent with David Parkes outstanding as Nixon's chief of staff, Jack Brennan, and Matthew Brumlow providing narration in the role of a young Jim Reston. The play was effective in demonstrating the personalities of the two lead characters. Morgan captures Nixon's hubris and desire to reinvent his character and Frost's success in using television to his advantage, all while building the dramatic action to an electrifying climax in the fourth and final interview that focused on Watergate. Capturing a famous historical moment the play suggested to me a simpler more innocent time that was ending with this morality tale of power and politics played on the stage. The staging itself was witty and effective in emphasizing the importance of television with much of the play shown on TV monitors for the theater audience. TimeLine Theatre Company has once again provided great history theater.

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