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Heights Players take on ‘Frost/Nixon’ • Brooklyn Paper

Heights Players take on ‘Frost/Nixon’

In the hot seat: Jason Hewitt (left) plays President Nixon, and Jere Williams portrays journalist David Frost in the Heights Players’ production of “Froxt/Nixon,” which opens on Feb. 4. This photo was from a dress rehearsal.
Photo by Noah Devereaux

The director of The Heights Players’ upcoming rendition of “Frost/Nixon” jumped at the chance to direct the play because he’s constantly reminded how lame modern interviews are compared to the 1977 face-off between the disgraced former president and the enterprising British talk-show host.

“There’s nothing like that now,” said director Steve Velardi, whose production of the Broadway hit premiers on Feb. 4 at The Heights Players. “Matt Lauer’s interview with George Bush could have been the new Frost/Nixon, but the most that came out of that interview was that Bush was offended Kanye called him a racist.”

Indeed, Richard Nixon’s televised confession to David Frost about his involvement in the Watergate schedule was a major milestone. And the play, which started on Broadway in 2007 and became an Oscar-nominated film, mixes the historical account of the interview, with fictional scenes. One of the most famous made-up sequences is when Nixon drunk-dials Frost on the night before their final interview.

“It’s a fascinating snapshot of history combined with scenes that didn’t really happen, but they feel real and work well in the narrative,” said Velardi.

One of the reasons that The Heights Players narrative works so well is Jason Hewitt, the actor playing Nixon. Like Frank Langella in the Broadway and film version of “Frost/Nixon,” Hewitt doesn’t attempt a dead-on impression of the paranoid prez, but still manages to channel his brash personality.

“His facial features and expression even resemble Nixon’s,” Verlardi said.

Actors’ facial expressions are especially noteworthy during the interview scenes between Frost and Nixon, and the Broadway production featured 36 TV screens so that the audience could see every grimace and grin close-up. The Heights Players’ Willow Street theater isn’t that high tech, but who needs TVs? At 120 seats, the space is intimate enough that you won’t miss a single crook, er, we mean look.

“Frost/Nixon” at the Heights Players [26 Willow Pl. between State and Joralemon streets in Brooklyn Heights, (718) 237-2752], Feb. 4-20. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm. Tickets $15. For info, visit www.heightsplayers.org.

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