Round House's Nixon's Nixon

On August 7, 1974, President Richard Nixon met with Henry Kissinger, the Secretary of State, in the Lincoln Room of the White House. We don’t know what they talked about in this meeting, only that it happened. The next day, Nixon resigned. Playwright Russell Lees has imagined what the two men might have said to each other, and written the trim and fast-moving Nixon’s Nixon, currently in production at the Roundhouse Bethesda.

The play opens with Nixon (Edward Gero), alone onstage, blasting Tchaikovsky at full volume. He dances around spastically, flinging his arms and conducting the music. And I thought I was the only one who did that. His reverie is interrupted by the arrival of Kissinger (Conrad Feininger). After finally getting Nixon to turn the music off, Kissinger begins to talk to him about The Future. What are his plans? How will he handle this crisis? Most importantly, will Kissinger get to keep his job as Secretary of State?

Though Kissinger is trying to talk about the future, Nixon keeps dragging him into the past. Nixon and Kissinger relieve moments from Nixon’s political career, actually acting them out. Nixon forces Kissinger to pretend to be Leonid Brezhnev and John F. Kennedy. There are moments of humor (though I imagine many more if you are among the audience members that actually lived through this era), and there are moments of pathos, as Nixon tries to recapture his successful moments of glory.

Gero and Feininger play off each other well, and are very successful in creating their characters in opposition to each other. Gero is light on his feet, constantly moving, twitchy, while Feininger sinks into his heels, more solid and grounded. Gero and Feininger attack their roles with much gusto, keeping the energy and the audience's interest flowing, but the characterizations are drawn a bit too broadly and therefore too shallowly.

3 stars
Through June 22


Anonymous said…
August 7, 1947?
Ah, yes. The transposition has been corrected, thanks.

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