Monday, April 23, 2007

Critics Acquit Frost/Nixon

Critics Acquit Frost/Nixon

Yesterday, Peter Morgan's retelling of the drama behind the famous Richard Nixon interviews by David Frost opened on Broadway. The reviews are in for Frost/Nixon, and they're mostly filled with accolades.

Praising it as "briskly entertaining," The New York Times' Ben Brantley is very favorable: "[L]et it be proclaimed, with drums and fanfare, that theater decisively trumps television in the production that opened last night at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater....Most of the credit for this victory belongs to a truly titanic performance from the man playing the famously sweaty victim of a cool medium. That’s Frank Langella, whose portrayal of Nixon is one of those made-for-the-stage studies in controlled excess in which larger-than-life seems truer-to-life than merely life-size ever could."

Proclaiming the play "one of those definitive Broadway experiences" in his three-and-a-half star review, New York Post's Clive Barnes opines: "It is the job of the actors and the director (referee, perhaps?) Michael Grandage to make it interesting. And do they ever. You watch with the kind of fascinated delight rare in the theater as Langella and Sheen go at one another with the dedicated skill of a Muhammad Ali and a Joe Frazier."

Citing "pair of champion actors at the top of their game," Elysa Gardner of USA Today offers up three and a half stars: "Langella's Nixon...seems a little buffoonish, though the actor wisely stops short of caricature. However shameful or complacent Nixon might seem, however dopey his jokes about political life or his perspiration problem, Langella provides subtle, masterful hints of the reserves of frustration and cunning his character harbors..As supremely entertaining theater, though, Frost/Nixon is an undisputed winner."

Calling it "entertaining if sketchy," the Associated Press' Michael Kuchwara is positive: "The play is awash in urgency, both verbally and physically. Under Grandage's direction, it never stops moving, particularly while setting up the ultimate confrontation between talk-show host and subject....Langella perfectly captures (Nixon's) defensive uncertainty....Yet the actor's portrait is never cartoonish, and despite his ultimate admission, a degree of sympathy emerges for the man."

Labeling this as "lean and " David Rooney of Variety is mostly upbeat: "(Morgan's) first stage play turns the potentially dry docudrama of a disgraced former president's unexpected public apology into lively sociopolitical reflection....while it's easy to imagine the play seeming more fragile with less resourceful actors, (Michael) Sheen and Langella could hardly be better....(Sheen) brilliantly underplays both the character's smarmy brashness and his faint air of desperation. Sheen's nuanced work as Tony Blair in "The Queen" was vastly underappreciated amid all the hosannas heaped upon Helen Mirren, and he risks a similar slight against the formidable Langella. Grandage nonetheless maintains a keen balance that serves both actors."

I'll be providing my own review of Frost/Nixon after taking in the show next week.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:
Frost/Nixon Ready For Broadway Close-Up Tonight (April 22, 2007)
Box Office: Theatregoers Don't Passover Broadway (April 9, 2007)
West End Transfer Of Frost/Nixon Opens This Evening (November 15, 2006)
Which British Hits Will Be Broadway-Bound? (September 20, 2006)
Critics Find Frost/Nixon to Be Unimpeachable (August 23, 2006)
London's Frost/Nixon Opens Tonight (August 23, 2006)
Sheen/Langella to Portray Frost/Nixon in London (June 2, 2006)

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At 25 April, 2007, Anonymous jan@broadwayandme said...

Thanks, as always, for this invaluable round-up of reviews, which helps in the decision about whether to see a show or not without giving away so much that there’s nothing left to discover once we get there. I have seen the show and my thumb is definitely sticking way up but I’m looking forward to hearing what you and the other SOB readers think of it. In the meantime, congrats on having done this terrific blog for a full year.

At 26 April, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Thanks for your gracious comments, Jan.

May I return the compliment? You have certainly developed quite a wonderful site, and I'm proud to list you among my "Daily Reads" now. I might also add that your review of Frost/Nixon helps make it the Broadway play I'm most looking forward to seeing this spring.



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