Take another look at Watergate

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By Jennifer Garcia

 Politics are not everyone’s cup of tea, but the subject is sometimes hard to ignore — especially when it involves scandal.
Most people would probably say that the Watergate scandal was not only one of the most corrupt times in political history, but also left a black smudge on the face of American politics that won’t be forgotten. And while most people have probably put that time period in the backs of their minds, there are some that still feel that former President Richard M. Nixon got off easy.
Directed by Courtney Lounsbury and produced by Kate Ramsey and Brad Lounsbury, Los Alamos Little Theatre’s latest production, “Frost/Nixon” tackles the aftermath of the Watergate scandal and one media personality’s aspirations for fame.
Grady Hughes portrays the sharp, witty, sometimes humorous, almost always sarcastic, Nixon. Don Monteith portrays the suave, silver-tongued talk show host and ladies man, David Frost. Together, they take the audience through Nixon’s struggle with reality after his resignation and Frost’s hopes of getting the politician to admit his guilt in the Watergate scandal on television.
But Frost and Nixon are not the only characters cast in this production. John Cullinan plays journalist James Reston; Brad Lounsbury portrays Jack Brennan, perhaps best known as Nixon’s chief-of-staff, post resignation; Darryl Garcia plays ABC News correspondent Bob Zelnick; former BBC general director John Birt is portrayed by LALT veteran Larry Gibbons; Richard Cooper plays Swifty Lazar, a Hollywood agent representing Nixon; John Phillips II is Manolo Sanchez, Nixon’s house servant; Claire Singleton is Caroline Cushing, one of Frost’s lady friends; and Crystal Miller as Evonne Goolagong; Patrick Kelly as Wallace; and Robert Garrard as the pilot voice-over round out the cast.
The set is ever changing. One minute it’s the scene of Nixon’s resignation speech, during which time he’s seated behind a wooden desk with the presidential insignia emblazoned on the front; the next it’s a villa in San Clemente, Calif., complete with red shingles on the roof. The use of a screen behind the actors helps the scene change, while furniture on stage makes it all more believable.
Frost has contacted Lazar in hopes of striking a deal with him, which would give the TV personality four 90-minute interviews with the former president — at a hefty price, of course. Frost must pay $200,000 up front, just to get his foot in the door. Despite the fact that he does not really have the funds or financial backing, he agrees to it, so he can secure the deal, all the while hoping that he will be able to sell enough advertising slots to make up the rest of the money needed.
Needless to say, things go haywire and just when it looks like it all may fall apart, Frost is able to hammer Nixon with questions that leave the usually vocal politician speechless and unable to do anything but admit his wrongdoing. The result is fame for Frost and a very low-key life for Nixon.
Hughes is convincing as Nixon. He potrays his character as sly, smart and able to dodge Frost’s questions with ease. He’s a pro at answering a question with a 25-minute statement, thus cutting drastically into the allotted time Frost has agreed to purchase. If Hughes struggled with his role, it’s not evident. His performance grips the audience and transports them back to that time period. One almost begins to feel sorry for Nixon despite his actions.
Monteith makes Frost every bit as suave as one might expect. Given the gift of gab, he’s able to chat people up with minimal effort. The ladies like him and he knows it and uses it to his advantage. However, when his Nixon interviews appear to be going nowhere, he’s able to show the emotion and frustration that one would expect from Frost. It’s as if Hughes and Monteith have really become Nixon and Frost.
Though they all played supporting parts, Garcia’s, Gibbons’, Lounsbury’s, Cooper’s, Singleton’s and Phillips’ roles were all convincing. Cullinan, as Reston acted more as a narrator, but that only helped the audience understand what was going on in each scene. He did have some other parts, however, primarily when Frost was “on camera,” interviewing Nixon and he made no bones about the fact that he was not a fan of the former politician.
The costumes for this show were indicative of the time period. Most of the males wore suits or dress clothes, except for Cullinan, who sported jeans and a button-down shirt. Singleton was more versatile and her attire reminded the audience that they were watching a production set in the 1970s.
The show runs approximately two-and-a-half hours, with intermission between scenes, but the action is enough to keep the audience interested and not constantly looking at their watch in agony. Even those who are not interested in politics will likely find this production entertaining — which should speak volumes in regard to the ability to keep one’s attention.
There’s still time to see “Frost/Nixon.” There will be a show at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $12 for general admission and $10 for students and seniors. They are available at CB Fox or at the door.