Time-travel time: Back when I went to grad school in Ohio, I got to see Hal Holbrook do his one-man show Mark Twain Tonight. I was aware of the privilege to see one of the living legends of American theater perform his signature role ... and yet, I kept dozing off. I was horrified. I followed some of it, and Holbrook performed the hell out of the show, but the elevated language and context kept losing me.
Well, it's a decade later and Twain's popularity is resurging, thanks to his unabridged autobiography's surprise success as a best seller in 2010. Old Samuel might have gone out with Halley's Comet just as he came in, but his acidic wit and insight remain relevant to this day. But what would he say about today's world? Writer/ actor Paul Newell has taken up this herculean task with Mark Twain Now, a one-man show that fictionalizes Twain's perspective on events in America since his passing, complete with a story about Tom and Huck as members of Congress. Mr. Newell: You have literary balls of iron. Perhaps this will get young people to check out Twain's work ... as I, unfortunately, didn't. Can Hal Holbrook come through the Triangle some time? I want a do-over. —Zack Smith