Thursday, April 26, 2007

Nixon: Knowing What I Know And When I Knew it

Nixon: Knowing What I Know And When I Knew it

As a student of history and political science (those were my majors in college, as opposed to theatre, communications or English) who also had an earlier political career in both Washington DC and my childhood home state (Wisconsin), I naturally gravitate toward political theatre. After all, what could be more theatrical than the art of politics? (Most of the real thing is rather bad, isn't it?!)

So it's against that backdrop that I confess to you the Broadway play I'm most looking forward to seeing this spring is Frost/Nixon, starring Michael Sheen as television talk show host/gadfly David Frost and Frank Langella as the disgraced U.S. President.

Personally, as much as I hate to admit to it, I'm old enough to remember how devastating the damning truth of the Watergate crisis was on this country, as bit after bit of new information slowly dribbled onto the front pages of newspapers and hovered like a dark cloud over the nation for what seemed like an eternity.

Yes, I remember watching the Senate's Watergate hearings and listening to individuals like John Dean coming before the committee and divulging details of the cover-up, as well as what Richard Nixon knew and when he knew it. I remember the Constitutional crisis that developed over the White House's attempts to thwart the investigation by claiming executive privilege. I remember Nixon on the verge of becoming the second U.S. President to be impeached by the House for high crimes and misdemeanors And I certainly remember watching Nixon announce to a heartsick nation that he would resign the office of the Presidency on August 9, 1974. What had become a long national nightmare stretching over two years was finally in its final hours.

Three years later, after the non-elected President Gerald Ford was ousted by Jimmy Carter from the White House -- in part because of his pardon of the former President -- Nixon reemerged, ready to reclaim his legacy via his Administration's most positive initiatives (détente with the Soviet Union, resumption of dialogue with Mainland China, etc.), but he needed a forum for his redemption.

Enter David Frost, a British talk show host known as much -- or perhaps more -- for his womanizing, navel-gazing ways as for his journalistic prowess. I vividly recall the media hype surrounding the actual Frost interviews of Nixon and the manner in which both were seeking some level of redemption.

In my mind, that provides the type of riveting story you simply can't make up. In an era where there were just three commercial television networks (ABC, CBS and NBC), virtually no cable television and certainly no new media like the Internet, the Nixon interviews became events unto themselves.

So, one week prior to making my personal pilgrimage to the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre to see the dramatization surrounding the interviews, I have been awed not only by the positive reviews and buzz, but also by stories like Michael Riedel's in yesterday's New York Post, which heralds this as actor Frank Langella's "history-making moment."

Simply put, I can't wait to see this show. While I know I'll be retracing my formative thinking from over thirty years ago, I also know that I'll likely leave that Broadway theatre with a fresh perspective on the man who so utterly disappointed and disgraced his nation more than a generation ago.

As a student of history, I'll certainly let you know what I think in an upcoming SOB Review. But I at least wanted to advise you in advance how that review will have been informed before I write it.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:
Critics Acquit Frost/Nixon (April 23, 2007)
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 26 April, 2007, Anonymous Esther said...

Well, having already seen the play, (hey, I never thought I'd be able to say that!) I've been thinking a lot about what it says about the relationship between politics and the media. I'm looking forward to a great discussion!

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

Looking forward to it!


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