The Opera House is on the Strand, which was hard hit by hurricane Ike. Most of the business in the area remain closed, some of them still boarded up, though a few are open again. The Opera House is in great shape, thanks to almost nonstop work since last year. There are still a lot of things to be done, but the place is almost back to normal.
The first time I saw Hal Holbrook do this show was in 1965 in the Auditorium Building at North Texas State University. Both Holbrook and I have aged a little in the interim, but the show's still dynamite, mainly because Mark Twain is a writer for all time. He remains one of my favorite American writers, and The Adventures of Huck Finn remains one of my favorite novels. And, of course, Holbrook remains a terrific performer.
Holbrook says he has no set program for his two-hour performances but that he has 16 hours of material to draw from. Last night he did at least two things I remember from the long-ago show, including "The Story of the Old Ram." I don't know about the performance in 1965, but this time the presentation differed somewhat from the version I remember reading so many times. Still funny, though, as was most of the first half of the program. The second half was more serious, with selections from Huck Finn, "The War Prayer," and "To the Person Sitting in Darkness." I got the sense that Twain still has the ability to make people very uncomfortable.
Holbrook was 40 years old the first time I saw him. Now he's 84. He's lost maybe half a step, if that much, and the show is still fine entertainment. Holbrook's been performing as Twain for 55 years, and he looks as if he could go for 55 more. I hope he does.