Nixon in Agony tells the story of Nixon's last night in the White House before resigning from office. Based on historical accounts, it depicts Nixon's vacillations, angry drunken conversations with portraits of past presidents, and final surrender to the inevitable.
"The work is an interrogation of Nixon’s self-perception. He recognises that he has abandoned everything that was ever good in him in order to become the thing he believed he might one day be, but has failed to become that thing and has lost the love of his wife, his self-respect, and any credibility in the world. Nixon sees himself as a character in the vein of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, or Larry Slade from The Iceman Cometh. His sense of failure to live up to the greatness of the office, and still more his failure - both on his own account, and on account of his failing to be born into a wealthy family - to achieve the potential that he saw and sees in himself - is the subject of the work."
President Nixon has booked a primetime television speech for the next day, amid speculation that he is to resign. He sits in the Oval Office drafting a speech, considering the circumstances that have put him there. He is tormented by ghosts of Presidents Jefferson and Kennedy, by the endless voices of criticism that have plagued him all his life, and by the collapse of his relationship with his wife, Pat. All the while Henry Kissinger, on whose advice he depends, fails to appear. He sits at his piano and plays as he imagines every insult and curse ever hurled at him being applied to him, all at once.
Resolving to step down, Nixon considers the nature, causes and extent to which his entire life has been an unmitigated failure, with nothing but failure to follow all the days of his life. Kissinger finally arrives, and assures him that his Presidency will be recognised for its actual and substantial achievements. Nixon asks Kissinger to pray with him.