Film

When it Comes to Excitement, JFK vs. Nixon Drama ‘Dick and Jack’ Offers Dick and Jack

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Something like an Off-Off-Broadway play in which characters constantly sound like they’re reciting the author’s description of themselves, Dick and Jack recounts a series of fictional meetings between JFK (Drew Allen) and Richard Nixon (Ken Straus) both in 1960 and, ultimately, sometime after Kennedy’s election to the White House.

Much of the back and forth takes place in the company of, and focuses on, their fathers, Joe Kennedy (Joe Rose) and Frank Nixon (Zenon Zeleniuch), whose influence over the lives of these presidents is spelled out via endless exposition that’s both blunt and corny — especially when it comes to a metaphor about tending a garden that’s driven into the ground with thudding force. (No real garden could survive being worked by such a heavy hand.)

Writer-director John Ransom Phillips portrays Kennedy as a charming but weak man who misses his mommy (“Dad, I crave touch! I don’t know closeness!”) and gets shaped into Oval Office form by his domineering daddy, while Nixon is envisioned as an off-putting opportunist infused with his working-class father’s rage.

Dick and Jack‘s initial black-and-white action takes place in an underdecorated barbershop and empty hallways, then situates itself in front of a lavishly colored abstract painting, the canted-angle visuals almost as leaden as the writing and performances.

Even for a small-scale indie, the amateur-hour quality is enervating; if it were debuting onstage, Dick and Jack wouldn’t make it to its second night.

Dick and Jack

Written and directed by John Ransom Phillips

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