'Frost/Nixon': a masterful portrait

Michael Grandage directs the two-hour fictionalized account of the meeting between Richard Nixon and TV host David Frost.

Consummate actor Frank Langella masterfully assumes the character of Richard M. Nixon in the London-born hit, "Frost/Nixon," which opened on Broadway late last month. Opposite Langella sits British actor Michael Sheen, as David Frost, the British talk-show host. Playwright Peter Morgan (who wrote the script for the movie "The Queen") based "Frost/Nixon" on the series of 1977 television interviews conducted by Frost. Like the unfolding of a Greek tragedy where the ending is already known, Morgan's play builds to Frost's success in getting Nixon to apologize to the American people – a revelation Nixon hadn't intended. Langella's performance burns in the viewer's eye, first for its physicality: the slightly stooped posture, the shambling walk, and the overgesticulating hands. More impressive is the manner in which Langella transcends the clichés and taps the intertwined shame and hubris of Nixon's psyche. Directed by Michael Grandage, savvy leader of small but influential London theater the Donmar Warehouse, the two-hour production is split between docudrama and a fictionalized account of the broadcast's back story. Designer Christopher Oram has built a large installation of TV screens, which capture, in close-up, Nixon's telling facial tics; beneath, the players appear as tiny puppets. Grade: A

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