Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
In this presidential election year, nothing is more fitting than to look back at one of the most complicated men ever to have served as President of the United States. In 1977, David Frost was a struggling TV show host desperate to reignite his career, and Richard Nixon was the disgraced former President of the United States. When Frost approached Nixon about doing a series of televised interviews, he saw it as his fast track to fame. Nixon saw it as a chance to win back respect and dignity. Peter Morgan's 90-minute, one-act play is a fictionalization of these famous interviews.
John Jellison is brilliant as President Richard Nixon. He completely inhabits the role of a complex man, complete with flaws and occasional social awkwardness. His rambling, late night phone call to David Frost fraught with unexpected self-disclosure is a mesmerizing study of the character of Richard Nixon. It is inconceivable to me that he will not be nominated for a Carbonell Award for this performance.
Jellison is deftly matched with Peter Simon Hilton as David Frost as his jousting partner. Hilton's dapper, stylish appearance is a great visual contrast to Nixon's style, and he truly captures the essence of David Frost. There is a wonderful chemistry between Hilton and Jellison that is essential to conveying the relationship between the two very different, yet rather equally matched adversaries. We see the mutual respect acknowledged by both men as they prepare for battle that allows them to have a kind of friendship once it is all over.
Next to these two extraordinarily strong actors, the rest of the cast turns in fairly unimpressive performances. Their own characters are flat, and their acting choices are far too predictable. Vanessa Morosco as Caroline Cushing is thankfully the exception. Her beauty and energy is a welcome respite in a heavily male-dominated show. Generally, when Jellison and Hilton are not on stage, the show becomes boring.
The Maltz did not seem to go the extra mile to establish the look, fashion, and feel of the time period between (1974-1977) as I hoped they would. But the name of the show is Frost/Nixon, and they have cast two such astoundingly talented actors in the title roles that the rest just fades away.
Frost/Nixon will be appearing at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre through February 21, 2016. The Maltz Jupiter Theatre is located at 1001 Indiantown Rd. (just off of A1A) in Jupiter, Florida. For tickets and complete information on the theatre's offerings, contact them by phone at 561-575-2223 or 800-445-1666 FREE, or online at www.jupitertheatre.org.
*Designates member of Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
^Designates member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, an independent national labor union.
+Designates member of the United Scenic Artists, a labor union and professional association of Designers, Artists and Craftspeople.