‘Mark Twain Tonight!’ at The National Theatre

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Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain. Photo courtesy of The National Theatre.
Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain. Photo courtesy of The National Theatre.

Let’s be honest-this performance is legendary and Hal Holbrook’s performance as Twain is one for the ages! What an honor it was to be in his presence. And for two hours he had me and the audience in the palm of his hands and his bushy mustache.

What has contributed to the longevity of the show is that it’s an evolving show, with a wide menu of material at Holbrook’s fingertips – all of which are derived directly from Twains published writing. After 60 years of mining this material Holbrook keeps it fresh by being free to apparently free associate between topics such as evolution, the creation, politics, and Huck Finn.

Holbrook’s topics ranged from references to his Presbyterian roots and seemingly personal dilemmas to Shawvian diatribes on the Noah Ark story, pointing out that God supposedly perpetrated the moquito as well as other more apparently valuable species at that critical moment. He questioned a strategy that supposedly left us with undesirable disease carriers as well as the more useful oyster. Basically Holbrook, as Twain, takes issue with the notions that man is the center of the universe, and seems to be willing to carry on without the comforting thought that the Lord will provide. And the audience loved it – as there was frequent heavy clapping and guffaws.

And as he has aged, Holbrook’s impersonation of Twain is now complete. He comes already equipped with the requisite white hair and easy manner and his occasional pauses add to the impression of an aging, but still a droll and indignant man who easily provides ‘food for thought.’

Running Time: Approximately two hours, plus an intermission.

Mark Twain Tonight played on April  4 and 5, 2014 at The National Theatre -1321 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, in Washington, DC.

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