Thursday, June 21, 2007

Frost / Nixon

Once I found out I definitely had the job offer I have been hoping for, I decided to take myself out to celebrate that very afternoon. I start my job on July 9th and one of the most beautiful things about being unemployed until then is that I can stand in line for rush tickets and hardly anyone else will be there. In New York, rush tickets are given out the day of a show, at 10am, for a discounted price. Not all shows do this, but many do.

I had heard a lot of buzz around Frost / Nixon, mostly because one of the lead actors, Frank Langella, just won the Tony award for his performance. I am a little mebarrassed to admit that I had no idea what the show was about, and I had never heard of David Frost, despite the facts that all of my family members have been invloved in politics all whole their lives and that one of my majors as an undergraduate was history. In an effort to not be so hard on myself, I must say that I was raised in a house where Richard Nixon's name was considered to be a synonym for any four letter word you can think of. My mother still has a profound dislike for the man, almost as strong as her dislike for the Red Sox. (She grew up a decided liberal and a decided Yankees fan.)

A short synopsis: David Frost was a British talk show host who landed an interview with Richard Nixon soon after Nixon decided to resign from office. The play chronicles those interviews, in which Nixon confesses his guilt in the Watergate scandal. David Frost becomes an international celebrity and Richard Nixon never recaptures any of the glory he had pre-Watergate.

I decided to go to the 2pm matinee on Wednesday for a couple of very good reasons. In business school, I occasionally felt like an old foggie for having graduated from undergrad in the 90's. At this matinee of Frost / Nixon, I was easily the youngest person in the house. How thrilling! When I used to work in a box office, this was my absolute favorite performance of the week. Everyone arrives half an hour early, they are accessorized to the max, and no one has a cell phone that will start to ring at the pivotal moment of the performance.

I get inside at about 1:45 and make my way up to the mezzanine, where I assumed my rush seat would be. A kind usher pointed out to me that not only was I in the orchestra section, but I was in the middle of the very first row. I couldn't believe it! I've never sat in the front row of anything in my entire life, except a baseball game at Wrigley Field (which was equally as exciting but much more expensive.)

So the play begins and I am on the edge of my seat just waiting to see the fall of the man that all these years I thought of as a crook. I was going to see how a dashing, young media man did what no other investigative journalist, Congressman, or attorney had been able to do before. If only my mother were here....

Except it didn't happen that way at all. Mr. Langella's performance was so riveting, so engaging that I found myself not only liking Nixon; I was ROUTING for him! I wanted him to come out on top. I wanted everything that I did know about Watergate to be an enormous lie. I didn't want to see this man disgraced and torn apart; I wanted him to be triumphant. (My mother would be horrified at this reaction!)

I had the great pleasure to see Brian Dennehy in Death of a Salesman in 1999. (Mr. Dennehy, like Mr. Langella, won the Tony award tha year for Best Actor in a Play.) And I felt for Frank Langella's Nixon the same sympathy, the same heart-breaking sadness that I felt for Brian Dennehy's Willy Lowman. It was tragic to watch a larger than life man with dream and hopes claw his way out of his own desperate situation only to watch him plunge back down to a point lower than he started. And worse, to watch him orchestrate his own demise.

I have been out of professional theatre for several years now and I'd like to return someday, in some way. For now, it was incredible to have that magic reignited. When you work behind-the-scenes in theatre, that spark, that "wow" factor falls away to some degree. They don't tell you that when you first sign up for the gig. Once you see what happens before the curtain goes up, what happens after that can becomes less intriguing. I am so grateful to Mr. Langella for helping me re-capture a bit of what I thought I'd lost. He was nothing short of stunning. And if you have the chance, you shouldn't miss the opportunity to see the show, no matter what the price of the ticket. Maybe you'll find yourself routing for Nixon too....

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