Review: Nixon’s Nixon at Java Station
Elements Theatre Collective Scores with Nixon and Kissinger
Both Michael Bernard as Richard Nixon and Laezer Schlomkowitz as Henry Kissinger are superb in this fascinating low-budget, two-man show that manages to wring laughter out of Nixon’s last night in office without resorting to sketch-comedy-style caricature. The brilliant script by Russell Lees relies on a clever device to open this 90-minute dialogue into the space of world history. Rather than have the actors play multiple roles, the playwright gets other characters like Leonid Brezhnev and Mao Tse-tung into the show by having Nixon and Kissinger play-act multiple roles as part of how they spend this increasingly drunken evening together. This conceit not only unleashes such wonders as Schlomkowitz as Kissinger as Mao, which alone is worth the price of admission, but it also makes dramatic sense. This meeting, which did in fact take place on the eve of Nixon’s resignation, almost certainly involved a great emphasis on moments of past glory. As all the president’s men, such as Hunt, Liddy, and Dean, were dragging Nixon down, the president must have yearned to return to the safe ground of foreign diplomacy.
Bernard captures Tricky Dick’s hypomania without doing a Nixon impression, and Schlomkowitz is extraordinary as Kissinger, layering in just the right ratio of intensity to diffidence to charm to anxiety. If you are by chance enjoying The Invisible Bridge, Rick Perlstein’s magisterial history of “The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan,” then by all means, go. And if you aren’t, go anyway. It’s that good