New City continues its POTUS-themed season with ‘Frost/Nixon’

Russ Widdall was Bobby Kennedy in New City Stage Company's recent production of "RFK." He's now playing David Frost in "Frost/Nixon." Credit: Annie R. Such
Russ Widdall was Bobby Kennedy in New City Stage Company’s recent production of “RFK.” He’s now playing David Frost in “Frost/Nixon.”
Credit: Annie R. Such

While playing Bobby Kennedy in New City Stage Company’s recent production of “RFK,” Russ Widdall met audience members nightly who would recall to him where they were when Kennedy or his brother were assassinated. Widdall, born in 1965, is a little too young for those events to have made an impression, but he does remember the impact of the Watergate scandal a decade later.

“When I was 9 years old, I was allowed to come home from school to have lunch,” Widdall remembers. “So I would watch cartoons while I ate my SpaghettiOs. Then Watergate happened and it was omnipresent, so I couldn’t watch cartoons anymore.”

Widdall recalled that childhood story to illustrate the sweeping cultural impact of Richard Nixon’s impeachment, which is the subject of Peter Morgan’s “Frost/Nixon.” Continuing its current season focusing on the presidency through several decades of the late 20th century, New City will present the Philadelphia premiere of the play this month, directed by Aaron Cromie.

Turning from Bobby Kennedy to British television personality David Frost is an adjustment for Widdall. While both are larger-than-life characters, their similarities may end there. “You’re talking about two guys who were famous, but famous for very different reasons,” Widdall says. “Bobby Kennedy was a flawed human being, but certainly one with enormous accomplishments. David Frost was a very accomplished broadcaster, but one whose reputation was frivolous compared to that of a world leader who fought for peace and civil rights and against hunger. Frost was a guy who was basically just trying to tell stories and be an entertainer.”

In playing David Frost, Widdall is following in the footsteps of not only the late broadcaster himself, but of Michael Sheen’s performance opposite Frank Langella’s Nixon (who will be played in this production by Dan Olmstead) in Ron Howard’s Academy Award-nominated 2008 film. “Normally when an actor creates a character it always starts from the inside, with goals, motivations and obstacles,” he says. “When I’m playing historical figures, I also work backwards — what do they look like, what do they sound like and, most importantly, how do people remember them? David Frost was just big. He lived on screen; he lived to be on television. The idea of playing people who actually lived gives you a certain responsibility as an actor to give these people a fair shake.”

Placed in the context of New City’s current season, which continues in March with Ginger Dayle’s new play “Hinckley,” about the would-be assassin of Ronald Reagan, “Frost/Nixon” offers a picture of a nation in transition. Where “RFK” showed a promise cut short, this piece presents a roadblock to much-needed change. “We were just getting out of Vietnam and were looking for a change,” Widdall says. “We were looking for our great future to begin and everything got put on hold because of this problem with our president. ‘Frost/Nixon’ tells how that political story became a story for everyone in the popular culture to digest.”

“Frost/Nixon”
Dec. 5-Jan. 5
Adrienne Theatre
2030 Sansom St.
$25-$45, 215-563-7500
www.newcitystage.org



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Humans should thank ancient Scottish fish fossils for…

By Kate KellandLONDON (Reuters) - Scientists studying fossils have discovered that the intimate act of sexual intercourse used by humans was pioneered by ancient armored…

National

Comet makes rare close pass by Mars as…

By Irene KlotzNEW YORK (Reuters) - A comet from the outer reaches of the solar system on Sunday made a rare, close pass by Mars…

Local

NYPD: Man found hanging in Brooklyn subway station

A man was found hanging inside a Brooklyn subway station on Saturday morning, police said. The man, who still had not been identified on Sunday,…

Local

Only church destroyed in 9/11 set to rebuild

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, the only house of worship destroyed during the terrorist attacks on 9/11, held a groundbreaking ceremony Saturday to start the…

Television

9 things we learned about 'Hannibal' Season 3…

There’s plenty of fall television to be excited about, but the crowd inside the Paley Center for Media on Saturday night only wanted one thing:…

Going Out

Watch home cooks try to impress Tom Colicchio…

Is what you’re making for dinner tonight good enough to serve “Top Chef” judge Tom Colicchio? That’s the standard that some of the city’s best…

Television

‘Homeland’ recap: Season 4, Episode 4 ‘Iron in…

Carrie Mathison, what are you doing?! Don’t seduce virgins! More on that later: Lots of crazy stuff went down on the "Iron in the Fire" ep of "Homeland"!

Movies

Box office: Brad Pitt kills Nazis, also Nicholas…

This weekend, Brad Pitt's second WWII movie, "Fury," rolled into the lead, while the latest Nicholas Sparks movie, "The Best of Me," got little love.

College

College football AP Top 25 rankings: Mississippi State…

College football AP Top 25 rankings: Mississippi State holds off FSU

NHL

NHL Power Rankings: Sharks, Canadiens, Blackhawks out in…

NHL Power Rankings: Sharks, Canadiens, Blackhawks out in front

NFL

DeMarco Murray carries Cowboys to win over Giants

The Giants knew they would need to stop DeMarco Murray if they were going to leave Dallas with a win. It didn't matter.

NFL

Jets trade for wide receiver Percy Harvin: Report

According to Fox Sports' Jay Glazer, the Jets have sent a conditional draft pick to the Seahawks for wide receiver Percy Harvin.

Wellbeing

Gabby Bernstein: The 3 questions I always get

For the last decade, I’ve been writing self-help books and preaching the Gospel of Gabby to audiences throughout the world. And no matter what country…

Wellbeing

Health News: 5K for lung cancer, free yoga,…

Get some fresh air to benefit lung cancer research On Friday, the first-ever Brooklyn Free to Breathe Run/Walk will take place Oct. 26 at Cadman Plaza…

Education

Can these two college students come up with…

Two Atlanta college students say they have an idea for a simple test that would quickly diagnosis the Ebola virus - and it all started…

Education

Chances are, the average college student isn't taking…

As a bachelor’s degree becomes more expensive than ever, one new report is criticizing colleges for the content of those pricey educations. The American Council…