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REVIEW: Nixon and Kissinger Look Back

REVIEW: Nixon and Kissinger Look Back

Ten years after its initial New York production, "Nixon's Nixon," a delicious political fantasy by Russell Lees, is even more fun _ and just as pertinent.
The play, which MCC Theater has brought back with its original two-person cast and director, puts Richard M. Nixon, at the very end of his presidency, and Henry Kissinger, his secretary of state, on stage for some 80 minutes of regret, recrimination and boozy camaraderie.
The time is very specific, the evening of Aug. 7, 1974, the night before Nixon announced his resignation as president. Nixon is wavering about giving up his post; Kissinger is worrying about his place in history and whether Gerald Ford would keep him on the job.
What makes this revival so successful is the return of the play's original stars, Gerry Bamman as the president and Steve Mellor as his canny adviser. Neither is an exact physical replica of the famous person he is impersonating. Yet both actors, now a decade older, seem to have grown into the roles, using their voices and more mature appearances to create these well-known figures.
Watch Bamman, drink in hand, lurch across the tiny stage of the Lucille Lortel Theatre. His Nixon, dressed in a dark blue suit that makes him look like a well-heeled undertaker, is a mass of indecision. One moment he is snarling in self-pity; the next he is gleefully plotting with Kissinger to concoct a world crisis that will save his presidency.
Mellor, wearing a tuxedo and Kissinger's signature dark-rim glasses, is equally impressive _ at one point bellowing with Teutonic confidence and then meekly trying to sing a hymn with his increasingly drunken boss.
Lees' dialogue is snappy, often satiric and sometimes remarkably applicable to whomever occupies the White House. At one point, Nixon complains he hasn't done anything wrong, adding "They gave me so much power, why are they surprised I used it?" That line still resonates today.
The two actors have a comfortable rapport, and director Jim Simpson moves the play swiftly within designer Kyle Chepulis' credible recreation of the Lincoln sitting room in the White House.
Bamman is such a fine actor that you eventually have to cheer on his forceful, fully realized portrait, particularly at the end of the short evening when Nixon rationalizes, "...sometimes the courageous thing isn't to struggle on. Sometimes it takes more courage, more honor to ... throw in the towel."
"Nixon's Nixon" is worth a look, particularly in this election season. The production runs through Oct. 28.


Updated : 2021-05-16 04:40 GMT+08:00