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ptp
Highly Recommended
Best Play Ever Contender
at
★★★★★
wct
Highly Recommended
exemplary ensemble acting
Critic's Pick
CA
  ★★★★★
up close and amazing
reader
Highly Recommended
NC

standout performance

JEFF RECOMMENDED
TIC
  T.I.C. TOP LIST - The Highest Rated Shows In Chicago
ptpHIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Redtwist Theatre Presents FROST/NIXON Review – Electric!!!
Reviewed by Amy Munice, Picturethispost.com

OMG! He’s nailed it!!

Expect that thought to cross your mind in just seconds, as soon as masterful actor Brian Parry appears as Nixon. It’s a performance that ensures you will never see footage of the actual, real Nixon of history in the same way again. Why did we never notice before how much Nixon always had the whiff of a submissive beaten puppy looking up imploringly, even when he was mustering full bravado??

That fellow Redtwist veteran Adam Bitterman becomes huckster/promoter Swifty Lazar is perhaps less startling to those who have seen him before. But do prepare to long for more Mike Wallace, another role that Bitterman takes on in a relatively brief cameo.

That might be the tiniest shard of a flaw in the FROST/NIXON script by Peter Morgan, whom contemporary audiences might know more for THE QUEEN or THE CROWN. Telling the story of how perceived lightweight journalist of sorts, David Frost, did the first in-depth interviews with Richard Nixon after his banishment to San Clemente. Nixon longs to be a player again. In this telling, Frost too wants to move from the margins back into the spotlight. No mere arm wrestle, this is more a gladiators’ fight to the death.

It amazes this writer to learn that Morgan, born 1963, didn’t live through these times with adult eyes. More, that it takes a Brit to bottle the anxious zeitgeist in America after Watergate—when so many experienced Nixon’s pardon by Gerald Ford as the end of democracy. For those of us now reading the daily news with full frontal phantom pains of those times, Redtwist’s staging of FROST/NIXON couldn’t be more timely.

It’s not only Parry and Bitterman, but the entire cast under the direction of Scott Weinstein that takes Morgan’s script and never lets the electricity out of the room, starting with Jason Richards as David Frost and Jim Tepeli as Jim Reston, the magnetic narrator of the drama unfolding. More than any other voice, Tepeli’s Reston pulses with the electricity of the times and script both.

Redtwist Theater Gives Us a BEST PLAY EVER Contender

From this reviewer’s perspective, the brilliant touches in this production pile on to leave admirers of live performance breathless. For one, the slightly time-delayed broadcast of the interview, giving a steady close-up view of Nixon’s gestures (Projection Designer Rasean Davonte Johnson and Technical Director Buzz Leer) is a non-stop showcase of Parry’s fine-tuned Nixon impersonation. How perfect that the minimal set in Redtwist’s small space reminds of how we all took in history in the intimacy of our living rooms (Scenic Design: Jeffrey D. Kmiec).

Nixon apologists, Trump lovers, or anyone who thinks obstruction of justice is a ho-hum proposition, won’t find much to like in this production. For the rest of us—and we ARE the majority—Redtwist’s production of FROST/NIXON may go on your short list of “Best Plays EVER”.

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at★★★★★
Reviewed by Al Bresloff, Aroundthetown.com

In these days of political “unrest” and all the constant “tweeting” and “fake news”, our thoughts often go back to another time, and another presidency, that of Richard Nixon and the famous (or is it “infamous”) Watergate situation. Many recall the day that Nixon went on national TV to announce his resignation and the following interview of Nixon by David Frost. Redtwist Theatre is now presenting a very intimate stage production of Peter Morgan’s “Frost/Nixon,” a ninety minute re-telling of this special TV interview which many called a chess game between the truth and fiction; the Brit broadcaster and the ex-president. In the long run, the behind the scenes as presented in this charming play directed to perfection by Scott Weinstein, is one that you should find a way to see, no matter your political situation or party.

I have seen this play done before. In fact, TimeLine did a spectacular production several years ago with one of my favorite actors, Terry Hamilton in the role of Nixon. I have watched Brian Parry play many a role at Redtwist and watching him take on this role was a surprise and a delight. He was masterful at making the real character come to life. David Frost, Jason Richards (a newcomer to Redtwist) does a very credible job playing this young man. His wig might work better in a larger venue, but being as close as we are to the actors in this space, it is difficult to hide the fact that he was indeed wearing one. His brilliant acting overcame this silly problem very quickly.

In fact, the entire cast is solid in their taking this story to a special place in recalling our memories from the events of the 1970’s. Most of the audience at todays’ performance were of an age where they would recall the actual events of the time, but I think a few actors were not even born yet. For them, this is a history lesson of the power of the tube and how despite Nixon’s clever way of being interviewed, Frost finally gets the right ammo to throw at the ailing man and, well, you will see for yourself just how these actors show us what transpired between these two men, enemies, and yet, maybe they could have been friends, under other circumstances.

What took place made David Frost a hero and Nixon a symbol for abuse of power. The ensemble that Weinstein has assembled does a masterful job:  Adam Bitterman (as Swifty Lazar and Mike Wallace—his Lazar is magical), Patrick Byrnes, Raphael Diaz, Kristi Forsch, John Arthur Lewis, E. Malcom Martinez, Brian McKnight, Heather Kae Smith and Mike Tepeli. Great job!

The tech for this show was also solid with a set by Jeffrey D. Kmiec, lighting by Brandon Wardell, sound by Eric Backus (who also did the original music), projections by Rasean Davonte Johnson, costumes by Rachel M. Sypniewski and props by Andrew Ashley Hatcher. We truly feel that we have taken a trip back into time as we walk into the theater which is now a small TV studio and later becomes the actual interview space where Frost takes Nixon to a new level (don’t want to spoil history for you, but “google” will explain it to you anyway!)

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wctReviewed by Mary Shen Barnidge, Windy City Times

"I shall be your fiercest adversary. The limelight can shine upon only one of us," proclaims the invisible foe on the eve of the decisive battle, his voice emerging from the darkness as the young warrior who will face him on the morrow listens in stunned trepidation.

This isn't Macbeth at Dunsinane or Richard III on Bosworth Field, however, nor will the duel commencing at dawn be swordplay to the death. No, this is 1977 and the location is a posh California beachfront residence where a television crew is preparing to tape what everyone hopes will be earth-shaking wordplay by popular British satirist/talk-show host David Frost and disgraced former U.S. President Richard Nixon.

Whether it be Aeschylus, Shakespeare or Aaron Sorkin, success rewards playwrights providing assurance that the powerful and privileged are as imperfectly human as their less celebrated supporters—wisdom granting absolution to authors inclined to liberties regarding historical accuracy. To be sure, by 2006, when Peter Morgan framed his drama-of-confrontation in metaphorical jargon associated with classical tragedy and high-stakes athletic events (boxing, bullfighting, etc.), the crimes lending our villain his notoriety had lost their immediacy.

So while those of an age to have firsthand memories—or hindsight opinions—of the characters depicted in Morgan's docudrama can revel in nostalgic recognition thereof ("Roger Mudd!" declared one playgoer upon hearing the voiceover as we enter), the cojoining of government and show business portrayed in this Redtwist production requires only minimal acquaintance with the issues referenced therein to be rendered comprehensible. Indeed, the absence of fact-based distractions facilitates the spectator-sport excitement generated by two rags-to-riches champions contending for glory beyond material gain—for the washed-up statesman, exoneration and a comfortable legacy, and for the ambitious upstart, the respect granted his snobbish colleagues.

Under the direction of Scott Weinstein, a cast led by Jason Richards as the sybaritic Frost and Brian Parry (whose visual and aural approximation of his persona is nothing short of uncanny) as the calculating Nixon deliver exemplary ensemble acting, as well as likewise uncaricatured physical replications of their real-life counterparts, even to individual regional accents. Despite a running time of 105 intermissionless minutes and our knowing the outcome from the start, the electricity in the snug storefront room engenders suspense—holding our attention right up to an epilogue being written to this day.

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reader
Highly Recommended

Reviewed by By Dmitry Samarov

Frost/Nixon depicts the thoughtfulness and grace of . . . Richard Nixon?
Oh, the good old days when a former president admitted to criminal complicity on prime-time television!

Peter Morgan's dramatization of the televised 1977 interviews between the lightweight British talk show host and the disgraced former American president gets a deft and timely revival under Scott Weinstein's direction. There’s nary a dull moment as Nixon and Frost prepare to spar in front of the cameras. Jeffrey D. Kmiec's set manages to make Redtwist’s tiny stage work as a TV studio and a half dozen other locales through clever use of doorways and video elements. The worn acoustic foam panels covering the walls of this tiny storefront theater underscore a key theme of this play: which information is kept in and which is kept out and by whom.

While Brian Parry bears little physical resemblance to Nixon, he nails the timbre and cadence of the man’s voice, so by the middle of the show he inhabits him almost completely. Brandon Wardell’s extensive use of shadows in his lighting design heightens Parry’s transformation. The rest of the cast is top-notch as well, with Adam Bitterman as both Swifty Lazar and Mike Wallace a particular standout.

It would be difficult to imagine the current resident of the White House acting with a fraction of the thoughtfulness and grace of Nixon—one of the greatest villains in U.S. history. But the seeds sown during Watergate cover us like kudzu now, so the sight of a former president admitting criminal complicity on prime-time television is almost worthy of nostalgia at this point. We can only hope that history can repeat itself one more time.

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NCRECOMMENDED

Crook on the Hook: A Review of Frost/Nixon at Redtwist Theatre
Reviewed by Noel Schecter

Set up like a prize fight (and even the title suggests a marquee match up), “Frost/Nixon” (written by Peter Morgan) brings to life the historic interview between David Frost and former President Richard Nixon. Frost (played to wonderful effect by Jason Richards) is a has-been British talk show host more famous in Australia than in the United States. In his corner is a slick television producer (Patrick Byrnes), a solid newsman (Brian McKnight), and a writer whose open hatred for Nixon serves as a focal point throughout the play (Mike Tepeli in a standout performance). The former president (Brian Parry, who is believable at every turn) is depicted here as a cunning man with an unnerving ability to keep his adversaries off balance.

What Nixon desperately wants is a second act as well as a little extra cash to pay off a few legal bills. To achieve these goals, he agrees to a series of interviews strung out over several days with the final session devoted entirely to the Watergate scandal. The lead up to these interviews has the feel of a classic fight movie with director Scott Weinstein setting the key pieces up like a chess board then allowing the action to unfold at a natural, unhurried pace. The tension at times is palpable. Frost clearly wants Nixon to confess to crimes of obstructing justice. And in the end, maybe this is what the former president wants as well.

There is an undeniable trend in today’s theater to seek relevance between any presented play and our current messed up political reality. Sometimes the link is obvious (as in Paramount’s recent production of “Cabaret”). Other times we labor a bit too hard to make the connection. In this case, however, the relevance is obvious, as Trump often resembles nothing more than a lesser Nixon (as evident by his recent ramblings on Fox & Friends). Though it seems unlikely though that our current president will ever come close to confessing his political sins.

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CA★★★★★  Brian Parry catches the posture and pitch of a sinner in confession
Reviewed by Lawrence B. Johnson, Chicagoontheaisle.com

On Aug. 9, 1974, Richard M. Nixon became the first president of the United States to resign from office, rather than face almost certain impeachment and removal after the Watergate scandal. But doggedly insisting that “I’m not a crook,” he never admitted to wrong-doing – until three years later, in a most improbable interview with British talk show host David Frost. That’s the setup of Peter Morgan’s 2006 play “Frost/Nixon,” which Redtwist Theatre has brought to its compact space with Brian Parry as Nixon, up close and amazing.

Morgan’s play works if, and only if, we can believe in the Nixon before us. Not just the look, but that husky voice with its distinctive accent, the arc of his speech, the finely gauged edge on his thought. Nixon was a smart guy, a lawyer who could swat away probing questions with the ease of a tennis champion in warm-ups. Parry gives us that fully formed Nixon. It is a remarkable performance.

Parry’s adept Nixon is well matched, or well mated, by Jason Richards’ deceptively savvy David Frost, whose career as a sort of populist interviewer – a lightweight in the general estimation – hardly augurs for the stunning confession he will draw from the iron-clad politician seated across from him through several hours of interviews taped for serial broadcast. What Frost does understand is human nature, that and the medium of television. Shunning the counsel of more hard-core journalists and political savants, Frost ultimately goes with his own experience, his own intuition, his gut sense of a man needing to come clean.

It is Frost’s rash impulse to seek an interview with Nixon in the first place. He even puts up his own money, in the expectation that sponsors will line up for such a high-profile event. Nixon sees this out-of-the-blue invitation as a cash opportunity, and his personal agent, Swifty Lazar (the delightfully oiled and calculating Adam Bitterman), agrees: This Brit will lob softball questions wrapped in a lot of green.

Frost doesn’t really know how or where the interviews will go, but makes the prudent move of assembling a cadre of advisers, notably the Nixon expert Jim Reston (Mike Tepeli), an arch-liberal who sees the interviews as chance to make the fallen president admit his misdeeds. Also on the team is the veteran Washington reporter Bob Zelnick (Brian McKnight).

Reston is our narrator, and Tepeli moves adroitly between filling in the story line and joining in the increasingly frantic strategizing to throw Nixon off balance and capture the grail of a mea culpa. When pretty much everything goes Nixon’s way through the first interview sessions, Tepeli paints a very funny picture of the exasperated Reston’s hand-wringing, hair-pulling despair.

And Parry is perfect as Nixon on garrulous cruise-control, the practiced politician who can deflect any question and spin an answer of earnest, meandering irrelevance.

It is Nixon who oddly, indirectly turns the game. The night before the final interview, he phones Frost in his hotel room. Just to schmooze, it seems. Just a chat in the middle of the night, to get to know Frost better, talk about small stuff, personal things, how the television star thinks the interviews are going. In a sense, this is the finest moment in Parry’s performance. Nixon has been drinking, maybe not all that much, but there’s something on his mind, something that bubbles beneath the kibitzing, something neither we nor Frost can see. But the practiced interviewer, this attuned observer of people, senses it.

Even knowing the historical outcome, the denouement is arresting to watch. When Richards’ suddenly purposeful and more incisive Frost pounces, Parry’s surprised Nixon starts through the familiar motions of fending him off – then, like a troubled patient seated before a psychiatrist, unmasks the awful and long-held guilt. It’s about as simple as that. No protest, no histrionics. Just release, and relief.

There’s a touching epilogue between Nixon in golfing attire and Frost come to say goodbye. Life will go on for both men, the observer and the observed, the latter looking fit and looking forward.

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