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Long Beach snares Twain play

September 03, 2008|Mike Boehm

Mark Twain will be back on a Southern California stage next spring, but Hal Holbrook figures to be nowhere in sight. Instead of "Mark Twain Tonight," Holbrook's solo re-creation of the great author and his cigar waxing comically wise, we'll get International City Theatre’s West Coast premiere of Twain's long-lost farce, "Is He Dead?" (May 1-24).

Written in 1898 but never produced, the script was lost until a Stanford English professor, Shelley Fisher Fishkin, unearthed it in 2002 from the Twain archive at UC Berkeley. Adapted by playwright David Ives, the comedy concerns death as a career move, as an ignored Parisian artist fakes his demise in hopes of creating a buzz for his paintings.

The Broadway premiere last year featured Norbert Leo Butz playing Jean-Francois Millet (Twain's real-life model) and, in drag, Millet trying to cash in by posing as his own bereaved sister. "Is He Dead?" won good reviews but closed in three months.

-- Mike Boehm

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