Debut of NY play about Rose Mary Woods

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When an actress is giving as commanding a performance as Kristin Griffith does in “Stretch (a Fantasia),” a new play about Rose Mary Woods, there is a danger that those who share the stage with her will disappear into her shadow.

So credit Evan Thompson, Eric Clem and Brian Gerard Murray with making their own distinctive contributions to this inventive work by Susan Bernfield, staged by New Georges at the Living Theater. Mr. Thompson even pulls off the difficult feat of briefly stealing Ms. Griffith’s considerable thunder with a trenchant monologue near the play’s end.

Woods, of course, was President Richard M. Nixon’s loyal-to-the-end secretary, best remembered for trying to take some of the blame for the 18 ½-minute gap in the Watergate tapes. Ms. Bernfield imagines her in her final days (she died in 2005 in a nursing home in Ohio), alternately wallowing in late-life bitterness and flashing back to her brassy, confident glory days.

The role repeatedly requires Ms. Griffith to accomplish a radical transformation in an eye blink, and she couldn’t be more convincing. Ms. Bernfield, in dialogue that is lyrical and stark at the same time, has her taking us on a tour through Nixonian history without getting bogged down in the details.

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