Nixon’s Nixon by Russell Lees opened on Broadway in 1996 almost two years to the day of the ex-president’s death. The play, a two-hander, takes place in August of 1974 in the chair filled Lincoln sitting room at the White House where Richard Nixon and his Secretary of State and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger drunk reminisce, and discuss the President’s possible options for the future. However, like Nixon, Kissinger is concerned with his own future. He hopes to keep his position if and hen Gerald Ford takes the office of president. Each attempts to manipulate the other. Kissinger keeps trying to convince the hysterical Nixon to resign while the president insists he has to remain in office because the American people admire a fighter.
Over the evening as they become drunker they role-play important historical events that took place during Nixon’s six years in office. Nixon, in particular, is excited by his exploits. They begin with Nixon performing Leonid Brezhnev and Kissinger playing Nixon and then reversing characters. During this meeting, Kissinger is shocked to discover that Nixon has taped his phone calls.
Nixon was jealous of Kissinger for winning the Nobel Peace Prize, and honor he coveted. The president’s unlikability is emphasized throughout. Playwright Russell Lees gave Nixon just one engaging moment when he expresses his love for his daughter, Julie.
Both Jeremiah Kissel and Joel Colodner are excellent in their respective roles as President Nixon and Secretary of State Kissinger. Kissel catches the President’s vulgarity and anger and manages to look amazingly like Nixon while Colodner captures Kissinger’s cleverness. Director Elaine Vaan Hogue’s fast-moving production is an enlightening evening of theatre.
In the Trump era, the play has received numerous revivals. That Nixon left office when he was in danger of being impeached likely gives hope to the anti-Trump crowd.
This article was reposted with permission from capitalcriticscircle.com. It was originally posted on September 24th, 2019.
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This post was written by Jane Baldwin.
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