The Hippo


May 25, 2020








Eric Skoglund as David Frost and Michael Coppola as Richard Nixon in Frost/Nixon. Courtesy photo.

See Frost/Nixon

Where: Amato Center for the Performing Arts, 56 Mont Vernon St., Milford
When: Oct. 14 through Oct. 23, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m.
Admission: $10 to $15


High-stakes interview
In honor of election season, MAP presents Frost/Nixon

By Kelly Sennott

Vicky Sandin first proposed Frost/Nixon to the Milford Area Players play reading committee for the 2015-2016 season, but members decided to put it off until this fall, to coincide with the election.

The 90-minute play by Peter Morgan hits the Amato Center for the Performing Arts Oct. 14 through Oct. 23 and is based on a series of television interviews former President Richard Nixon granted broadcaster David Frost in 1977, three years after he resigned due to his role in the Watergate scandal.
Frost/Nixon premiered in London in 2006 and starred Michael Sheen as the talk-show host and Frank Langella as the former president, the same duo that eventually starred in the 2008 film of the same name directed by Ron Howard. Sandin saw the play performed off-Broadway about eight years ago.
“It’s the first time Nixon actually addresses the Watergate controversy and sheds light on what’s on his mind about it,” said Sandin, who directs the Milford show. “It was just the most fascinating character study of two men, played by phenomenal actors who had to fight against each other using their words and their legacies to come out on top. … I love plays featuring complicated people, and these two men are very complicated.”
At the time of the interviews, both men were at low points in their life. Nixon was broke — one of the reasons he granted the interviews to Frost, in return for a large sum of money — and Frost’s New York-based talk show had recently been canceled. There were 12 interviews, three per week over the course of four weeks, which were edited down to four 90-minute programs.
Starring in the leading roles are Michael Coppola as Nixon and Eric Skoglund as Frost, who’ve been meeting outside rehearsals to go through lines and flesh out characters and conversations.
“Michael doesn’t look like Nixon, and Eric doesn’t look like Frost, but once they start talking, that will all go away. You’ll see two people trying to climb to the top in politics and television. And I think that’s going to be kind of cool,” Sandin said. 
Coppola was attracted to the role for the challenge and the historical element. But of course, when you’re playing a real person people know and remember, it ups the stakes. But he did his research, reading about and watching videos featuring the 37th president.
Most of what Coppola knew of Nixon came from history classes and the news, and he was surprised when he realized he knew little of Nixon’s successes — for instance, he was the first to open diplomatic relations with China and initiated détente and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with the Soviet Union. 
“He did a lot of great things that were overshadowed because of one mistake he made,” Coppola said. “That also interested me — that I wasn’t just going to play Nixon the crook. He was a good president, and it really was unfortunate the way he ended. … And if you actually think about what he did … if it were today, people would have just glanced right over it.”
The play features period costumes — Coppola wears a navy suit, but Skoglund sports ’70s garb, from plaid and flared pants to shirts with long collars —and basic sets.
It’s the type of drama, Skoglund said, hardly done in southern New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts. The characters are meaty, the story significant.
“People know the term Watergate because the term ‘gate’ is used at the end of every scandal now, but I think people have forgotten what happened 40 years ago. And I think it’s important not to forget,” Skoglund said. 

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