Nixon’s Nixon, Buffalo Theatre Ensemble. Russell Lees’s conceit in this two-character snooze-a-thon is that Richard Nixon spent the last 90 minutes of his presidency reliving old times, role-playing with Henry Kissinger, and procrastinating about resigning. Maybe he did. But nowhere in this drama is there a compelling argument that idle speculation about Tricky Dick’s final hours is stageworthy.
The major question guiding the action, of which there’s precious little, is whether Nixon will agree to resign. And since this is a foregone conclusion, we’re left with a whole lot of meandering conversation and filler as Nixon endlessly pontificates about his place in history and the pragmatic Kissinger advises him to place the welfare of the country above his ego. Worse are Nixon and Kissinger’s feeble reenactments of the president’s encounters with world leaders. True, Lees’s portrayal of these two figures is unsentimental and evenhanded: his Nixon and Kissinger are neither heroes nor villains, geniuses nor dolts. But by depriving them of their mythic dimensions, Lees robs them of their dramatic potential as well.
Gary Griffin’s Buffalo Theatre Ensemble production just adds more tonnage to a leaden script. Jamie Vann, whose battery of studied mannerisms and hackneyed vocal inflections are equal parts Tom Snyder and Humphrey Bogart as Captain Queeg, is unconvincing as Nixon. The bearded, stiff Werner Krieglstein is even less convincing as Kissinger. Count this an early contender for the dullest drama of 1998. –Adam Langer