Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Frost/Nixon


In 2006, Peter Morgan guided both Helen Mirren and Forrest Whitaker to Academy Awards with his screenplays for The Queen and The Last King of Scotland, respectively. And, to be perfectly honest, I really didn't like either film. While I feel that Morgan would make a superb beat journalist, there really was nothing inherently cinematic in those two movies. There's also nothing overly theatrical about Frost/Nixon, his debut play, which is currently on Broadway after a successful London run. Morgan seems to fall into the trap of many novice playwrights: When you have nothing for your characters to say, have them say it in direct address. Far too often do the secondary characters--Nixon's chief of staff, Frost's research assistant--come center stage to reiterate what we already know already, and the result is static. The play doesn't really start to cook until nearly an hour in, when the actual battle of the titans occurs. While Frank Langella looks absolutely nothing like Nixon (he actually bears a striking resemblance to Ronald Reagan), he brings a kind of rare, kinetic energy to the role that often left the audience in stunned silence. His able counterpart, Michael Sheen, is pitch-perfect as David Frost; he has every facet of his personality down pat, and compellingly makes the case for a playboy itching to be taken seriously. Still, I left feeling like I'd seen a solid documentary, not a fully realized drama.

6 comments:

Mike said...

Seeing this next week. Hooray for advance student rush sales!

Cameron said...

And the student rush seats are great. Front row center, and the stage is at eye level, so you won't be straining your neck all night.

StagestruckNYC said...

The play deserves a harsh critique of the pedestrian, expository style and excessive reliance on narration and direct address to the audience. The style is reminiscent of those cheesey semi- documentary, semi-dramas on The History Channel. That being said, the performances by Langella and Sheen are terrific, and eventually these two actors succeed in creating a real drama. A drama develops around the audience's discovery that Nixon is an immensely intelligent, complex and interesting character, while Frost is extremely shallow and Reston is an obsessive. Ultimately, the shallow man and the obsessive monomaniac destroy the more complex individual.
I found the final narration "Nixon never again held public office," to be quite excessive, and it encapsulated for me the playwright's weakness (or the failure to edit this play for a US audience.
Best regards, from StagestruckNYC

Patrick Lee said...

And what about that cheesey final scene - I wanted to take my shoe off and throw it at the stage.

Cameron said...

I know! But given that 75% of the play was a big cheesefest, I can hardly say I was surprised by it.

Stephen Kunken seems to be the king of the direct address play, between this and "A Very Common Procedure". Poor guy.

Ricky Patterson said...

I absolutely agree. The play didn't feel dramatic enough to me. More like a documentary. Oh, well. Sheen and Langella were great.