‘Frost/Nixon’: Is History More Interesting When Massaged?

Michael Sheen in Frost/Nixon.Photo by Johan Persson, Courtesy of Frost/Nixon

Hot off the success of the Oscar-winning docudrama The Queen (and no doubt currently planning The Queen II: No More Mrs. Nice M'am) playwright Peter Morgan is enjoying the buzz for his play Frost/Nixon, a historically tweaked potboiler about the 1977 televised fencing match between Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) and British talking head David Frost (Michael Sheen). Langella's excellent turn as ole Tricky Dick has been the blabberpoint du jour — read New York's evaluation here — but the tale of these two titan has-beens trying to spin themselves back into relevancy, narrative originality, as well as history itself, has been vying for watercooler space. Is the play the thing, or is the thing a sublime, over-the-top, yet strangely human impersonation? —John DeVore

Rave: "Let it be proclaimed, with drums and fanfare, that theater decisively trumps television in the production that opened last night … Most of the credit for this victory belongs to a truly titanic performance from the man playing the famously sweaty victim of a cool medium. That's Frank Langella whose portrayal of Nixon is one of those made-for-the-stage studies in controlled excess in which larger-than-life seems truer-to-life than merely life-size ever could." —Ben Brantley, New York Times

Rant: "Morgan's glib, quick-cut movieish approach also suffers from a self-congratulatory air … don't expect earthshaking drama. Great performances, yes, but I'm looking forward to the movie." —David Cote, Time Out New York

Related: We Still Have Nixon to Kick Around [NYM]