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

Bloomberg: Going green will grant you longer life…

Former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg tells Metro that cities are where fighting global warming can make a difference, and increase people’s lifespan.

International

Ban Ki Moon: "Climate change is an issue…

My message to you is: make your voice heard and your actions count. Change is in the air. Solutions exist. The race is on. It’s time to lead.

Local

Earth Day New York food toolkits to help…

Hundreds of classrooms across New York City already have indoor container gardens that allow students to grow food right where they learn. But Earth Day…

Local

NYPD announces street closures for United Nations General…

The United Nations representatives are in town, and multiple city streets will be closed to traffic through Saturday, Sept. 26. The NYPD is urging those…

Television

10 Facts you won’t learn about Frankie Grande…

Frankie Grande is the worst and/or the best. Whether or not you're a fan, you'll want to know these facts about the polarizing player from "Big Brother 16."

Movies

Antoine Fuqua can kill someone with just a…

It's amazing what you can get done with the right tools. In designing the climactic battle in "the Equalizer," in which Denzel Washington's retired special…

Movies

Guess Ben Kingsley's worst filmmaking experience

Here's a fun game: Sir Ben Kingsley has made a lot of films since "Gandhi" in 1982, but at least one of them was a…

Books

Does Lena Dunham have any secrets left?

Get a sneak peek at her new book to determine if it’s worth the read.

NFL

3 things that went wrong in Jets loss…

The Jets have very little room for error with a far-from-explosive offense.

NFL

Eli Manning finally feeling good in West Coast…

The Giants have very little time before their next game, but they still took a moment to relish the team’s biggest offensive outburst since Week 1 of 2013.

College

College football top 25 poll: Oregon, Alabama close…

College football top 25 poll: Oregon, Alabama close in on FSU

NFL

Jay Cutler takes Marc Trestman's coaching to heart

While Jay Cutler turned to an autobiography on the man who would be his head coach, Trestman had personal experience with the player.

Wellbeing

Exercising leads to more drinking — and we…

  We’re rewarding ourselves with more than dessert on days we exercise, according to a new study. On days when people exercise more, typically Thursday…

Wellbeing

5 gadgets to protect you from sharks, concussions,…

The medical industry is inundated with devices looking after all aspects of your wellbeing, from monitoring your sleep patterns to warding off shark attacks. We…

Wellbeing

Narcissism and the ugly side of vanity

I have a friend who constantly talks about herself and rarely asks any questions about my life. She is constantly preening, obsessed with her body,…

Wellbeing

Lacking new ideas, Apple Watch disappoints health experts

Technology pundits were quick to predict the demise of most fitness wristbands and smartwatches when the Apple Watch was announced. But health care professionals and…