Curtain Call: FROST/NIXON still timely

FROST/NIXON still timely

Play opens at Chinchilla UMC, Oct. 22

O ur political attentions of late have been absorbed by post-recession economic policy and Republican presidential contenders. On the surface, it seems as if today’s issues have little to do with the Nixon White House. Director John Schugard suggests it worth awhile to take a second look back as we continue to step forward.

His production of Peter Morgan’s play FROST/NIXON opens at the United Methodist Church in Chinchilla this weekend, continuing through Oct. 22 before picking back up at the Phoenix Performing Arts Center in Duryea for a second, two-weekend run Nov. 11-Nov. 20.

The play, not unlike the 2008 film adaptation of Morgan’s play, pits British talk show host David Frost against former president Richard Nixon in a series of 1977 television interviews, which both men hoped would bolster his career. Historically, they are significant for evidence uncovered by Frost’s research team which forced Nixon to admit wrongdoing in the famed Watergate Hotel scandal, which resulted in his resignation from the presidency.

Not a hard journalist, Frost was skilled at putting celebrity guests at ease. It was this underestimation of his contender that left Nixon surprisingly vulnerable.

“There’s a moment when David Frost just sits and reads this long list of quotes of what Nixon said during taped conversations at the White House, and it just proves that Nixon knew about the break-in and was trying to cover it up long before he publicly admitted it,” the director described.

The original footage, which he hasn’t personally watched, can be seen on YouTube, the director said. While the political impact of the story is certainly resonant, it’s not what made him choose the play to direct. Out of the eight or nine plays he was reading with consideration for production this fall, it was the one he found so compelling, he couldn’t not produce it.

“The play does a nice job of portraying the interviews as an actual contest between David Frost and Richard Nixon. Frost was trying to reestablish himself in America while Nixon was looking to exonerate himself and reestablish his reputation,” Schugard said. “The interviews are portrayed as a struggle between these two men with their careers hanging in the balance.”

Each man, he said, is equipped with an entourage, not unlike the team each contestant has in his corner during a boxing match. Farther from the ring, we find our own opinions – some who feel the office of the presidency is above the law, and others fearful of an executive branch prone to abuse of its power.

“There is continuity from the Nixon years through to now. Those of us old enough to remember can see parallels between the Vietnam protests of Nixon’s years and the mass protesting over economic inequality issues with the Occupy Wall Street movement,” Schugard noted.

“People still are protesting what they consider wrongdoing of the government. And Nixon’s administration really did a lot of awful things trying to quell those protests. I hope we won’t see that kind of underhandedness now, but whenever there are protests there is always someone who wants the protests to end.”

The first half of the run stars Bob Balitski in the role of Nixon while the Duryea stint will feature Jeff Ginsberg in the presidential role. Additional cast members include Tim McDermott, Jarid Jopling, Lucas Hrabousky, Bill Mecca, Donna Vojtek, Katharine Moran, Paul Jakubowski and Eric J Lutz.

- alicia grega

The United Methodist Church of Chinchilla is located at 411 Layton Road in Clark Summit. Shows Friday and Saturday are scheduled to begin at 8 p.m., a matinee on Oct. 16 only will begin at 3 p.m. Call the United Methodist Church at 676-0940 for reservations. Tickets for all shows are $12.

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