LA Review: 'Frost/Nixon'
Staged Cinema Productions at Maverick Theater
Reviewed by Eric Marchese
April 24, 2012
While perhaps not ideal, Newell’s casting of Joe Parrish and David Herbelin as Nixon and Frost pays off in the way each actor sidesteps his role’s many clichés, making the character his own while still projecting those qualities most closely associated with the famous men. Parrish wisely avoids the stoop-shouldered, almost ghoulish caricature of Nixon created by Frank Langella on Broadway and in the 2008 film version, instead projecting an awkward, self-serious, seemingly humble pol in a drab suit who is nonetheless as sly, slick, and shrewd as any seasoned trial lawyer. Herbelin also skirts copying, eschewing Michael Sheen’s stage and screen portrayal of Frost as a graceful pretty boy. Herbelin chooses to be a needy punching bag who morphs into a crisp, elegant British inquisitor intent upon eliciting honest answers without resorting to cheap shots or bullying. Both men stress their characters’ humanity, resulting in a drama that defies you to escape being caught up in what’s at stake.
In a superb supporting cast, Rob Downs shines as Bob Zelnick, the investigative reporter (and later ABC News correspondent) who heads Frost’s team. Equally good are Ben Green, as college professor, author, and journalist James Reston Jr., who intends to exact an on-air apology from Nixon; Mark Coyan, as tough, hard-edged military man Jack Brennan, Nixon’s post–White House chief of staff and top advisor; Robert Dean Nunez, as Frost’s starchy British colleague, producer John Birt; Kelsie Blackwell, as stunning model and new Frost girlfriend Caroline Cushing; and Jason Sutton, as Irving “Swifty” Lazar, Nixon’s cagey literary agent. Newell’s boxing-ring set, TV-studio lighting, large monitors showing both live and recorded images, and canny use of dramatic musical underscoring help propel an already urgent series of events. Lauren Shoemaker (costumes and props) and Sharon Baker (wig stylist) ensure that the cast members look just as their real-life counterparts would have looked during the events that unfolded exactly 35 years ago, in April 1977.
Presented by Staged Cinema Productions at Maverick Theater, 110 E. Walnut Ave., Suite B, Fullerton. April 20–May 27. Fri. and Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m. (No performance Fri., April 27.) (714) 526-7070 or www.mavericktheater.com.