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Marking Time

The writing of Mark Twain continues to fuel actor Hal Holbrook’s long-running one-man show.
Lynne Thompson
Get Hal Holbrook on the phone, start talking politics, and you begin to wonder if he’s trying out new material for Mark Twain Tonight.

As the 84-year-old Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated actor talks about Barack Obama, it’s easy to imagine Twain — the great American author, humorist and social critic — saying the same things.

Holbrook points out how the president’s critics attacked his ability to inspire during his campaign. “They tried to diminish the value of eloquence,” he says.

He then talks of watching news footage of Obama painting walls at a Washington, D.C., school in shirtsleeves a day before his inauguration. “What president has stooped, if you’ll excuse the phrase, to do something so utterly human and inspirational?” Holbrook asks in his unmistakable, weathered voice.

It’s the perceived similarity between Holbrook and his inspiration that speaks to the success and longevity of Mark Twain Tonight. Holbrook has taken the Tony-winning production on the road every year since 1954. The show comes to the Palace Theatre March 21.

Check back March 1 for the full story.

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