David Frost (Andrew Carter, seated center) talks strategy with his team Jim Reston (Matthew Brumlow, from left), Bob Zelnick (Don Bender) and John Birt (Dennis Grimes) as they prepare to interview President Richard Nixon in TimeLine Theatre’s Chicago premiere of FROST/NIXON by Peter Morgan, directed by Louis Contey. For more information, visit timelinetheatre.com. Photo by Lara Goetsch.
FROST/NIXON AT TIMELINE THEATER.
TimeLine has done it again. They have taken Peter Morgan’s provocative and compelling play Frost/Nixon and created a production that is larger than life. Terry Hamilton, cast as Nixon, brings alive the “good Nixon and the bad Nixon” exposing the raw emotions that drove him to his undoing. Through the years, Nixon had become a caricature of himself. Hamilton was able to overcome the cartoon image and expose Nixon’s insecurities along with his villainous actions–making him human again.
As Sir David Frost has said more than once when recalling his history-making television interviews with Richard Nixon in 1977, three years after the Watergate scandal had ended Nixon’s presidency, “there are two Nixons: Good Nixon and Bad Nixon.”
Having been alive for the original interviews and the Nixon presidency, I remember Nixon as a complex, socially awkward man. He had none of the charisma of a Kennedy. He lacked the swagger and people skills of Texan Lyndon Johnson, and bore no resemblance to the caring grandfatherly presence of war hero, Eisenhower. That he ever became President is somewhat of a mystery.
Having seen the Frost/Nixon movie (2008) with Frank Langella as Nixon and Michael Sheen as Frost, I thought I knew the story. And I did. The difference between the movie and the TimeLine production is the intimacy. As I watched the play, I felt as if I was eavesdropping on the actual event.
Andrew Carter, cast as the 39-year-old playboy and talk show host David Frost, nails the Frost persona. Both men (Nixon and Frost) have their own reasons for wanting to do the televised interviews. Frost is trying to revive his slumping career and Nixon is trying to revive his image.
In retrospect, the somewhat unlikely real-life pairing of Nixon and Frost was perfect. As Clive James wrote in 1977, “Apart from the consideration that Frost is much nicer, the two men are remarkably similar. They are both essentially role-players–at a level too deep for speech they understand each other well.”
The entire show is uncommonly well-cast from David Parkes, who plays loyal Nixon aide Jack Brennan to David’s lady at that time, Caroline Cushing, who adds more than eye candy, played by Beth Lacke in an intelligent and likable manner.
irector Louis Contey along with his designer Keith Pitts did away with any extemporaneous visuals. The staging was sparse, concentrating on the two main characters. Two comfortable leather chairs are placed at center stage at an angle facing each other symbolizing the historic interviews. The large video screen behind the stage projected the in your face close-up tortured images of Hamilton’s Nixon adding a powerful third dimension to the action. The six video screens, three on either side of the stage brought back the reality of the actual television interviews.
Performances of Frost/Nixon run Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30p.m., Fridays at 8:00p.m., Saturdays at 4:00p.m.and 8:00p.m. and Sundays at 2:00p.m. through October 10, 2010.
Post-Show Discussions are free and led by a TimeLine Company Member and feature the production staff and members of the cast on Wednesdays, August 25, September 8 and 22; Thursdays, September 2 and 16; Sundays, August 29, September 5 and 19.
Tickets are $28 (Wednesday–Friday) or $38 (Saturday and Sunday. Special student discounts and group rates are available. 773 281 8463 ext. 24.
Location. TimeLine Theatre is located at 615 W. Wellington Ave., inside the Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ building, near the corner of Wellington and Broadway. CTA El stops at Wellington (Brown/Purple lines) and Belmont (Red/Brown/Purple lines). CTA busses #36-Broadway, #76 Diversey, #77 Belmont, #22 Clark and #8 Halsted stop nearby. TimeLine offers parking for $8 with validation at the Standard Parking garages at Broadway Center (2846 N. Broadway, at Surf) of the Century Mall (2836 N. Clark), both within two blocks of TimeLine. There is limited street parking and other paid parking lots nearby. There are two flight of stairs totaling 18 steps between the street and theater space, with no elevator.
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