It’s true on a number of levels to say that Hal Holbrook’s one-man show “Mark Twain Tonight!” is the performance of a lifetime. Not only because Holbrook has distilled a lifetime’s worth of Samuel Langhorne Clemens’ writing and humorous commentary into a single evening, but the fact that Holbrook has been doing the show for longer than most people have been alive.
Holbrook first put on Twain’s iconic white suit and wry demeanor in 1954. In the years that followed, the work earned the actor a Tony Award, took him around the world and earned him a reputation as a national treasure. His film career has spanned more than four decades and almost 40 films, including his Oscar-nominated role in 2007’s “Into the Wild,” but “Mark Twain Tonight!” has remained a constant throughout the years. Along the way, Holbrook has so immersed himself in the author’s writings that he’s been able to constantly refresh the show, making Twain’s satirical observations on 19th century life adaptable and relevant even to today’s fast-moving world.
April 21, 2010 marks the 100th anniversary of Mark Twain’s death, but thanks to Holbrook, the man hailed as “the father of American literature” is vividly brought back to life. Holbrook is one of the last great American character actors performing as one of America’s greatest characters, and his appearance at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza – his only one in the Los Angeles area on this tour – is perhaps a last chance to see two American legends at the same time.
“Mark Twain Tonight!” performs Friday, March 19, at 8 p.m. at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza (2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd. in Thousand Oaks). Single tickets are $29 to $69 with group discounts available. Tickets are available from Ticketmaster or the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza Box Office.