Whatever else he was or wasn’t, Richard Nixon must surely have been the strangest human being ever to serve as President of the United States. Deformed by unappeasable ambition and visibly ill at ease in his own skin, he was the polar opposite of the blow-dried, focus-grouped mannequins who now dominate American politics. Roger Ailes, who worked as a media consultant for Nixon’s 1968 campaign, summed him up in one steel-shod sentence: “He looks like somebody hung him in a closet overnight and he jumps out in the morning with his suit all bunched up and starts running around saying, ‘I want to be President.'” Such a creature was made to be put on stage, and Frank Langella plays him to the hilt and back again in Peter Morgan’s “Frost/Nixon,” a slick, superficial and staggeringly entertaining British docudrama about the making of the 1977 TV interviews in which David Frost persuaded Nixon to admit his involvement in the Watergate cover-up and apologize for having “let the American people down.”
Mr. Langella’s performance is all the more remarkable given the fact that he bears no resemblance whatsoever to Tricky Dick. Weirdly enough, he looks much more like Gore Vidal, and the Nixonesque voice he assumes in “Frost/Nixon” is not so much an impersonation as a very free caricature. He’s so far off the mark that it takes about five minutes to get used to him–but once you do, you’ll hang on his every twitch….
S.N. Behrman used to be one of the hottest names on Broadway, but that was a million years ago. I’d never seen any of his 20-odd plays on stage until Tuesday, when the Pearl Theatre Company revived “Biography,” which ran for 267 performances in 1932 and thereafter dropped from sight. Very much to my surprise and delight, it turns out to be a winner, a scintillating light comedy wrapped around an unexpectedly tough core of emotional seriousness….
This was my first visit to the Pearl Theatre Company, and I was decidedly impressed by the outstanding performances of the ensemble cast, which has been tautly directed by J.R. Sullivan. But the real star of the show is the script. Like the Mint Theater Company’s equally fine Off Broadway revival of Rachel Crothers’ “Susan and God,” this marvelous production serves as a highly pleasurable reminder that more than a few of the now-forgotten American stage comedies of the ’30s are still capable of charming modern audiences….
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