By David Morse
Celebrity actor Val Kilmer spent the last 14 years researching Twain and he is in the midst of a one man show that is almost a theater workshop.
November 21 through November 24, Kilmer will perform at the Laguna Playhouse in a unique performance that is as far from Hal Holbrook’s Twain as one can imagine. After seeing Kilmer perform at the Pasadena Playhouse, I was intrigued to find Kilmer’s Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known by his pen name Mark Twain, is, from all apparent research, much more of the egocentric, contradictory and competitive personality than Twain actually was.
Kilmer brings to life this idiosyncratic chauvinist in a manner that requires you to be attentive and, if possible, up close. Thus small theaters such as the Laguna Playhouse are perfect venues. With no intermission one should be prepared for 90 minutes without a break.
In the performance I saw, Twain complained about many of the great people of his time, most notably the foremost woman author and thought leader of the day, Mary Baker Eddy. (Eddy was also the founder of the Christian Science Church and the world renown newspaper owned by the church). Twain apparently found competing with the most prolific woman writer in the country a challenge and the performance uses this and other historic personages in a fashion that tells more about Twain than most of us know.
But, be prepared for some fun adaptation. If you arrive early, you may find Kilmer’s Twain roaming the theater with the audience (with particular attention paid to beautiful women, an apparent Twain weakness). Twain’s white tennis shoes gave a contemporary flair while the performance seamlessly used rear-screen projection to help tell a funny story that begins with God sending Twain to, in my case, Pasadena for the performance. Kilmer is cleverly spontaneous with a great degree of whim. Twain is portrayed true to life, including bouncing around like a grade school child suffering from ADD, which is part of the fun.
The best, and don’t miss this, is the end when Twain sits on the stage and is transformed back to Val Kilmer as his makeup is removed. Kilmer talks to the audience about himself and his performance. The program in intimate and wonderful.
Please contact Laguna Playhouse box office to get up-to-the-minute ticket availability information.
606 Laguna Canyon Road
Laguna Beach, CA 92651