2016 Capital Fringe Review: ‘Secret Honor’

Anyone Can Be President: Secret Honor at the Fringe

“Scathing” “lacerating” and “brilliant” were three of the words the late Roger Ebert applied to the 1984 Robert Altman movie of Secret Honor, with script by Donald Freed and Arnold M. Stone, who wrote the play as well. Billed as The Last Testament of Richard M. Nixon, the play stands as one of the finest portraits of one of our most troubled and elusive presidents. Bootcamp Theatre’s Fringe production, directed by Nigel Fairs with Steve Scott as Richard M. Nixon, is simply superb. There are shocking revelations (or are they paranoid delusions?); for example, that Watergate was a cover-up for even worse crimes.

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Scott has probed deeply into the soul of the man, and found—what? As with many things about Richard M. Nixon, it seems impossible to be sure. As the show opens, we hear one of Nixon’s most significant utterances; “Therefore, I shall resign the presidency, effective at noon tomorrow.” Other memorable quotations from the period set the scene.

With an unadorned set, composed of chair, book, a tape machine, and, oh yes, gun, Scott begins his performance in a deceptively mild-mannered, reasonable tone.  He is out to plead Nixon’s case before an unseen judge and the “Jury of the American People” comprised of the audience.

The whole trajectory of Nixon’s life is here, from his devotion to his mother, (he refers to himself as her “dog”), to the Alger Hiss case, to the China initiative, to what former U.S. Attorney John N. Mitchell called, “the White House horrors”, i.e. Watergate.  Scott’s rage and sorrow build, as he fulminates against the Founders (“snotty English shits”), confesses that he really likes John Dean, and drinks and drinks and drinks, falling apart before our eyes.  Director Nigel Fair has enabled Scott to explore every single nuance of the beautifully written script.

The play is almost like an operatic aria…one can imagine “Ridi, Pagliaccio…” in the background.

“Anyone can be president” is the adage chosen to represent Secret Honor.  Needless to say, there are many inherent lessons for today. Anyone can be president, indeed.

Running Time: 70 minutes, with no intermission.

Secret Honor plays through Saturday, July 16, 2016, at Caos on F – 923 F Street NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call (866) 811-4111, or purchase them online.

Check other reviews and show previews on DCMetroTheaterArts’ 2016 Capital Fringe Page.


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Sophia Howes
Sophia Howes has been a reviewer for DCTA since 2013 and a columnist since 2015. She has an extensive background in theater. Her play Southern Girl was performed at the Public Theater-NY, and two of her plays, Rosetta’s Eyes and Solace in Gondal, were produced at the Playwrights’ Horizons Studio Theatre. She studied with Curt Dempster at the Ensemble Studio Theatre, where her play Madonna was given a staged reading at the Octoberfest. Her one-acts Better Dresses and The Endless Sky, among others, were produced as part of Director Robert Moss’s Workshop-NY. She has directed The Tempest, at the Hazel Ruby McQuain Amphitheatre, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Monongalia Arts Center, both in Morgantown, WV. She studied Classics and English at Barnard and received her BFA with honors in Drama from Tisch School of the Arts, NYU, where she received the Seidman Award for playwriting. Her play Adamov was produced at the Harold Clurman Theater on Theater Row-NY. She holds an MFA from Tisch School of the Arts, NYU, where she received the Lucille Lortel Award for playwriting. She studied with, among others, Michael Feingold, Len Jenkin, Lynne Alvarez, and Tina Howe.


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