|Rich Little as Richard Nixon. Photo: Steve Bergman|
By Lauren Yarger
We all remember the scandal: Richard Nixon left the White House in disgrace following investigative reports by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein and the famous Watergate hearings that exposed corruption and crimes by the president's re-election campaign.
But what if it didn't happen that way?
That is the premise of Trial on the Potomac: The Impeachment of Richard Nixon, a new play by George Bugatti based on Geoff Shepard's book, "The Real Watergate Scandal," and starring famous impressionist Rich Little as "Tricky Dicky."
What if Nixon wasn't all that tricky, however, but was set up by John Dean (Matthew Hammond) and others who had the press in their pockets and orchestrated the scandalous events to cover up their misdoings and put Sen. Ted Kennedy (Richard Wingert) in power?
So in this alternate explanation of history, instead of delivering the famous announcement of his resignation from office, Nixon shocks CBS reporter Diane Sawyer (Kelsey Lea Jones) and the nation by saying he isn't going anywhere and that he will fight the charges.
Bring on an imagined September 1974 impeachment trial presided over by Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Berger (a delightfully acerbic Paul Caliendo) and prosecuted by Peter Rodino (Tom Gregory) and Phil Lacovara (Chris Lazzaro).
Nixon's defense is headed by James St. Clair (a savvy Troy Sill) and overzealous newbie Geoff Shepard (Nick Mauldin) who, aided by a deepthroat-like source, follow a trail of memos and secretly taped conversations that throw the burden of suspicion of wrong doing and coverup on Dean, Watergate burglar John Liddy (John Ramain), former Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman (Lou Vitulli) and Watergate trial Judge John Sirica (Victor Colicchio) among others. To add credibility to the play, the real Geoff Shepard, who worked as a lawyer in the Nixon White House, serves as technical consultant. His books are available for purchase in the lobby and the day I attended, he was available to sign.