Saturday, August 11, 2007

Frank Langella is a god

In Frost/Nixon on Broadway. Of course, he was helped by that stunning Peter Morgan script (which I can't yet find online - it's one you need to read to fully appreciate). I had such complicated feelings about F/N. I watched the 1977 program, I was a fan of Frost's from the earlier U.S. version of "TW3", but didn't know of his later somewhat-falling star, which the interviews obviated. Of course given my dad's huge love of Nixon, my fascination is for this Shakespearean-sized character. I always felt I understood the sorrowful, dark part of him, believing there was much overlap was with my dad's own demons. He was dogged his entire life by similar feelings of an impossible loneliness, of an outsider status that no amount of success could assuage. Langella really delivers on that premise - that Nixon's own fears and hurt fueled his massive hubris, and his colossal, deadly mistakes in Vietnam and with Watergate, among others.

Ben Brantley: "Mr. Langella’s Nixon has come across as a man of quick intellect, maudlin sentimentality, vulgar wit and studied social reflexes that have never acquired the semblance of natural grace. You are always aware of someone who struggles to conceal not only a defensive self-consciousness but also a cancerous anger and fear."

There a few unforgettable moments in my theatregoing life: the original M Butterfly and Rent; the late '90s revival of Carousel; anything by Anna Deveare Smith, Spaulding Gray or Sarah Jones. Langella's drunken late-night call as Nixon about 2/3 of the way through was another such moment. You can't convey that depth of anguish in another medium. (I'm glad Ron Howard & Brian Grazer are producing the film version. But it can't possibly go as deep.)

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