Frost/Nixon, which opens at Playhouse on the Square this week, is a brutal piece of theater that plays itself out like a boxing match. In one corner, wearing a black blazer and tie, is journalist, satirist, and British broadcast innovator David Frost, a clever man whose reputation for borrowing other people’s material earned him a rather unflattering nickname: “The Bubonic Plagiarist.”
In the opposite corner, wearing a gray blazer and pale-blue shirt, is Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon, the disgraced former U.S. president known for his vast rhetorical skills and extreme paranoia. Frost was desperate to be taken seriously. Nixon, according to biographer Jonathan Aitken, had hit rock bottom and “bore more than a passing resemblance to Napoleon at Elba, with the added indignity of being desperately … unable to meet his doctors’ and lawyers’ bills.” He took $600,000 to do the interviews with Frost and ultimately confessed more than he intended regarding his role in the Watergate break-in and bugging of the Democratic national headquarters.
Playhouse on the Square’s production of Frost/Nixon is directed by the Steppenwolf Theatre’s Rob Satterlee, who has previously helmed spectacular Memphis productions of Lanford Wilson’s Book of Days and Inventing Van Gogh, a collaboration between Playhouse on the Square and the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. Memphis theater veteran Bill Andrews (pictured), known for his performances in Urinetown and as part of the ensemble in Jerry Springer: The Opera, returns to the Playhouse stage to take on the role of Nixon. Frost is played by former company member Michael Ingersoll, who has spent the past three years playing Nick Massi in the Chicago run of Jersey Boys. — Chris Davis