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Playing at: Caos on F
Remaining Performances: July 12 at 8:15 p.m., July 14 at 8 p.m. Saturday, July 16 at 4:45 p.m. Tickets available here.
They say: Ghosts and paranoia fuel the personal alcoholic reflections of a fallen and discredited U.S. President in this remarkable one-man show. While Nixon maintained the illusion of power by giving orders to be obeyed, those obeying them laughed behind his back, ridiculing him, Kissinger offering the wry observations ‘Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac’ and ‘The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer.’ Portrayed here is the very essence of those words.
Robin’s Take: Richard Milhous Nixon’s frazzled inner turmoil is made public on stage during Secret Honor. Steve Scott, who plays the disgraced former president, screams, cries, even throws up (or pretends to in the back corner of the stage) during the one-man-show. He impressively depicts the paranoid insanity behind the notorious public figure.
Scott, sitting in a folding chair and dressed in a suit with booze in hand, barks at the audience in a decent Nixon impression, though he doesn’t come close to physically resembling the 37th president. He spews a defense for his actions in the Watergate scandal and the incriminating tapes, unintelligibly at times, and always seems to be in some sort of emotional fog.
Director Nigel Fairs creates an imaginary court setting, where the character defends his life’s failures to the audience and speaks to “Your Honor;” defending his political life to reveal the “secret honor” he felt for his actions, despite being known for his public disgrace.
During the hour-long monologue, Scott mutters to himself almost incoherently about Watergate, his elections against John Kennedy and Helen Douglass, and suspected communists in government like Alger Hiss, as well as his childhood tragedies and his Quaker upbringing. Some of the most passioned statements come when the actor screams about his national security advisor and secretary of state, whom he refers to as “Henry Asshole Kissinger” at one point during the show.
The Nixon character mentions that he could have won the 1950 Senate race “without the tricks,” calling Douglass beautiful and blaming the communist accusations against her on others. He also bitterly recalls the 1960 presidential election and claims he could have beaten Kennedy.
He recalls his childhood and reads aloud a letter he wrote to his mother that was signed “your little dog, Richard.” He directly addresses his dead mother multiple times in the play, looking at the ceiling as he begs for her approval.
Fairs fortunately arranges the show to cover the entire span of Nixon’s life, including his childhood and political career before the presidency. Using a wealth of sometimes hard to follow historical references, Fairs captures the jumbled perspective of the fallen president and gives the audience a glimpse of how Nixon himself saw his actions and his life.
See it if: you’re a fan of the 37th U.S. president
Skip it if: you need to brush up on your Nixon-era history