At 615 W. Wellington Avenue
Written by Peter Morgan
Directed by Louis Contey
Thru October 10th
Running Time: One hour and fifty minutes with no intermission
Reviewed by Katy Walsh
Timeline Theatre Company’s tagline is yesterday’s stories, today’s topic. In the wake of the Rod Blagojevich’s first trial, the timing of their current production couldn’t be more topical. Timeline Theatre Company presents the Chicago premiere of Peter Morgan’s FROST/NIXON. In 1977, David Frost, a talk show host interviews a disgraced President Nixon. Frost’s objectives are to get Nixon to admit wrongdoing and to apologize to the American public. Nixon’s ongoing shtick is to use the four interview series to reminiscence about his non-Watergate presidential moments. Network sponsors, political journalists, financial backers are all barriers to Frost’s endgame. Either Frost hits the target or multiple careers connected to the project implode. It would be like the Chicago Tribune backing WGN’s Dean Richards in soliciting a confession and contrition from Rod Blagojevich. Everybody knows the truth. Get the guy to admit it! Timeline’s FROST/NIXON is a behind the scenes ‘cascade of candor’ of what went wrong and really wrong before everything went right.
Under the direction of Louis Contey, this drama is paced to perfection. Even knowing the historical outcome to this famous David and Goliath story, the tension is still palpable. In the leads, Andrew Carter (Frost) and Terry Hamilton (Nixon) are outstandingly authentic. Timeline effectively uses cameras and visual projections (designer Mike Tutaj) to show the television influence in capturing the moment. Off-camera, Carter’s public persona of carefree, D-List celebrity status mixes in with private glimpses of vulnerability. On-camera, Carter’s face is frosted-over-fear when Nixon effectively controls the interview with a litany of ramblings. Hamilton’s portrayal of Nixon is complex. Is he crazy or funny? Is Nixon’s pre-air focus on shoes and fornicating deliberate manipulation? Or the uncensored humor of a defeated man? Hamilton’s performance elicits questions about Nixon‘s state of mind in his post-Watergate years. Hamilton’s headshot captured on-camera gives Nixon an overly sad and human quality. Matthew Brumlow (Jim Reston) brings a lively energy serving as narrator and Anti-Nixon historian. In ‘interviewing practice’, Don Bender (Bob Zelnick) does a hilarious imitation of Nixon. The entire supporting cast, clad in groovy 70’s garb (designer Alex Wren Meadows), provide the perfect backdrop for the interview centerstage.
Media has changed the political scene. Not just the Farnsworth invention, but social media and a new generation of ‘reporters’ without journalistic credentials are announcing missteps by our chosen leaders. It’s an age of political disenchantment firmly rooted in Watergate. In my short stint as a republican, I wore a “Re-Elect Nixon” button. In 1973, my belief system was shaken to learn people in power lie. That ten year old’s realization is followed by 35+ years of continued deceit at the hands of ‘civil servants.’ Timeline’s FROST/NIXON is the origin of Media-gate.
Joining the ranks of Media-gate, Theater Bob reports his findings on FROST/NIXON at Chicago Theatre Addict.
FROST/NIXON production photographs courtesy of Lara Goetsch.
WAITING FOR THE SHOW
Nowhere near Timeline Theatre but still a good brunch option is Green Zebra, 1460 W. Chicago. Dick had a Group-on. The Green Zebra is an upscale, hip, all vegetarian menu. We were served complimentary Madeline cookies with a cinnamon butter and strawberry jam. Freshly out of the oven, they were melt-in- your-mouth fantastic. My vegetarian monte cristo was tasty with grilled asparagus and oversize egg bread. If I were to be completely honest, I’d have to say Angry Brad’s biscuits and gravy were much better than my entrée. The gravy was a savory mushroom concoction that was delicious. We went splitzie on a walnut sticky roll. The food presentation and service were outstanding. The only downside of our experience was revealed post- scandal. The server apparently charged my debit card for the balance after the Group-on… correct. He also charged it for the full amount of the bill… scam! Zebra-gate! I’ve become a little disenchanted with the vegetarian community.