Alan Cox and Stacy Keach in Frost/Nixon Photo by Carol Rosegg
After Stacy Keach as Nixon in Frost/Nixon, which opened last night at the Ahmanson, finished a late night phone call to interview-host David Frost (Alan Cox) in what could be called sculpted aria of paranoid ramblings, I heard a voice from the row behind me: “That was the best scene in the movie.”
It's an inevitable consequence of timing that Center Theatre Group's production of Peter Morgan's play, coming two years after it closed on Broadway with Frank Langella and Michael Sheen, would arrive so recently after Ron Howard's much heralded film, which is so fresh, it hasn't yet arrived on DVD. It's equally inevitable, and tedious, that people will say, “The film was so much better than the play.”
For more on Frost-Nixon plus the weekend's COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS., press the “Continue Reading . . .” tab directly below.
I'm holding an “advantage” of not having seen the film, though I did
see Langella and Sheen in the Broadway production, replicated at the
Ahmanson with the same design team and director (Michael Grandage). The
experience is a a bit like seeing a familiar movie in a different city,
with the slightly surreal impression that the actors are not quite the
Morgan's play is David and Goliath saga of a highly facile TV
entertainment-host landing a coveted four-part interview with a wounded
giant ex-president. It's a game of bait and debate, requiring momentous
preparation by each side, with its teams at war over the very high
stakes of legacy. And then comes the interview itself, broadcast “live”
on a video monitor that looms over the action.
With Langella as Nixon, the play was a Greek tragedy. With Keach, it's more of a romantic tragedy.
Keach cuts an imposing yet amiable and ferociously intelligent
figure of Nixon, not half as smarmy or snipey as Langella's, or as
press accounts detail, or as portrayed in plays by Donald Freed. It
took Keach about 15 minutes to find his strike, vocally and physically,
on press night, but once he did, he rolled through the play with the
dexterity and force of a nimble tank, eliciting considerable pathos.
Playwright Morgan also gives him such wit, that his protests about
being an perpetual outsider belie the evidence we see on the stage.
This is a guy who'd seem to do quite well at dinner parties, at least
half as well as his authentic and almost ingratiatingly above-the-fray
Ahmanson Theater, 135 N. Grand Ave. downtown; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.;
Sat., 2 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; through March 29. — SLM
See Theater feature on Thursday, in print and at https://laweekly.com/theater
THEATER TALK ON KPCC, 89.3 F.M.
If you're reading this today (Friday), I'm joining Dany Margolies and Wenzel Jones of Back Stage on the Patt Morrison show, 2-3 p.m.
THIS COMING WEEK-END'S REVIEWS
Check back here Monday after noon for reviews of Ray Bradbury's Falling Upward at the El Portal Theatre, Heinrik Ibsen's Ghosts at A Noise Within; Grease at the Pantages; Joy Harjo's Wings of Night Sky, Wings of Morning Light presented as part of the Native Voices series at the Autry National Center in Griffith Park; Matthew Goldsby's new musical Makin' Hay at Actors' Co-op; Charles Ludlam's The Mystery of Irma Vep presented by the Ark Theatre at the Hayworth; The Parabox presented by Post Fact Productions at Son of Semele Theater; and Theatre Banshee's production of Macbeth, and Christopher Meeks' kidney transplant drama, Who Lives? at the Pico Playhouse