Sunday, February 08, 2009

Mark Twain Tonight

Or, to be more accurate, last night.  Judy and I drove down to Galveston, had dinner at the Pelican Club, and then went to the 1894 Grand Opera House to see Hal Holbrook as Twain.

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.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Can't believe he's still doing it although I saw Estelle Parsons (82) do a four hour play on Broadway last year where she ran up and down a staircase many times. The greatest generation all right

Bill Crider said...

He did almost the entire show standing, too.

Bill Peschel said...

I saw him two years ago in Hershey. A fine performer. He graciously signed my first edition of "Innocents Abroad" (a very trashed edition I plan to have rebound).

Rusty said...

I love Holbrook as Twain, my favorite writer. But it occurs to me that, if Holbrook has been doing Twain for 55 years, he's been Mark Twain longer than Samuel Clemens was Mark Twain. Clemens first used the name in 1863 (I think), and died in 1910, which means he was only "Twain" for 47 years.