We've seen Richard Nixon before on regional stages; Derrick Ivey gave a career-defining performance of the fallen president in Nixon's Nixon at Manbites Dog. That achievement, though, was mostly played for laughs, and predated Frank Langella's searing interpretation in the Broadway and film versions of Frost/Nixon.
If John Honeycutt doesn't eclipse these achievements, under Carnessa Ottelin's direction he still finds his own way past his character's egotism and self-pity to a moment of truth in a heart of darkness.
In this plucky Justice Theater Project production, David Henderson nimbly inhabits a vision of David Frost in the '70s: a likable, lightweight media figure ultimately tasked with confronting a world-class statesman about his crimes.
Supporting roles here are mixed. Ryan Brock is visually jarring—but historically accurate—as youthful political scholar James Reston Jr., who insisted the interviews constitute the public trial Nixon never received. But Chris Coby is too stiff and not always audible as Jack Brennan, Nixon's chief of staff, though Jack Prather amused as agent Swifty Lazar.
Staging an intermissionless hour and 45 minute production is a risk. But Ottelin's pace and assured performances carry us through without complaint. Frost/Nixon raises far too timely questions about the processes that held politicians accountable in the 1970s—and the ones that do so today. Recommended.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Head cases."