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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Nixon's Nixon

Also see Susan's review of Measure for Pleasure

Nixon's Nixon
Edward Gero and Conrad Feininger
For those of us who remember Richard Nixon as a historical figure, as well as younger people who know him only from video clips and old Saturday Night Live sketches, Nixon's Nixon offers an imaginative look behind the façade of a public man. As created by playwright Russell Lees and embodied by actor Edward Gero in the current production at Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Maryland, Nixon was even crazier and more venal than he seemed at the time—but he had his own kind of integrity, and he was hilarious in his profane, paranoid way.

Round House is revisiting Nixon's Nixon in honor of the upcoming presidential election; Gero and co-star Conrad Feininger, playing the ostensibly unflappable diplomat Henry Kissinger, originally played these roles in 1999 at Round House's previous theater space. Director Jerry Whiddon's fluid, physical work builds upon the work of the original director, the late William Foeller.

The additional years have added gravitas to the actors, lending additional depth especially to Gero's frenzied posturing and manic speaking style. However, Feininger, while an amusing foil to Gero, sometimes comes across as more of a buffoon than he needs to be.

In Lees' imagination, Nixon and Kissinger meet on August 7, 1974—the night before the president makes his resignation speech—to make plans for their political futures. Although facing impeachment from his role in Watergate (the program offers a helpful synopsis of the events and people), Nixon starts out determined to keep fighting and triumph through sheer bullheadedness. He also floats some outrageous foreign policy ideas that seem disturbingly prescient in light of subsequent history. The urbane Kissinger, for his part, tries to flatter and manipulate the president for the sake of his own legacy.

With the technical upgrades available in the current Round House space, the designers have the opportunity to stretch, compared with the earlier production. Scenic designer James Kronzer brings the audience into the well-appointed Lincoln Sitting Room of the White House, and Martha Mountain's lighting design uses subtle changes of color to echo the distraught president's shifting moods.

Round House Theatre
Nixon's Nixon
May 28th June 22nd
By Russell Lees
Richard M. Nixon: Edward Gero
Henry Kissinger: Conrad Feininger
Directed by Jerry Whiddon
4545 East-West Highway
Bethesda, MD
Ticket Information: 240-644-1100 or www.roundhousetheatre.org


Photo: Danisha Crosby


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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