Tony Miratti’s “Mark Twain: At His Wit’s End!” returns to Cambria’s Pewter Plough Playhouse, the fourth time the actor has performed the one-man show in a year.
He first donned the white wig, mustache and white suit in a performance at the Victoria Theater in Santa Barbara in 1998, believing it was to be a one-time gig. Since then, Miratti has had a busy acting career in New York and Hollywood, on stage, in film and television, but Mark Twain keeps popping up.
“I had thought that it was simply an acting assignment and nothing more,” Miratti explained. “I certainly didn’t want to make a career out of it. I have a dear friend who looks just like Will Rogers and does his superb one-man show of his life and is quite happy doing that. I thought I had put this show to bed many times, but the phone keeps ringing.”
The show began when Miratti was asked by a producer to collaborate on a production about the famous author of such classics as “Huckleberry Finn” and “Tom Sawyer,” whose real name was Samuel Clemens.
“We set about to adapt a script from the volumes of speeches by Samuel Clemens, and after much work we found a way to weave through his life in a chronological manner,” the actor said. “Consequently, there is material that is familiar because of its popularity, and other segments that are rarely heard or addressed. Then the wig was specially made for me, along with the eyebrows and mustache. The white linen suit was the easiest component to acquire.”
Mark Twain remains relevant, Miratti said.
“His material is universal because of his wry sense of humor, on any subject from politics to human behavior. You add in him being an admitted rascal looking for his next opportunity to misbehave and you have a lovable curmudgeon who is master of his trade.”
Miratti said he hasn’t changed the show too much over the years.
“I just cut it here and there to make it sleek and to the point, as Samuel Clemens was — almost blunt.”
He has toured California with this production, but has been busy with higher profile work.
“Personally, I also like playing Colonel Drummond in ‘Inherit the Wind,’ Teach in ‘American Buffalo,’ along with many others on stage, and some of my favorite television parts were in the original ‘Incredible Hulk,’ ‘Rhoda,’ and ‘General Hospital.’ ”
Miratti grew up in Santa Barbara, then lived and worked in New York and Hollywood, returning to the family home in Santa Barbara in 1990, where he has been active in regional theater.
“As I said, it’s not a life goal to only play this (Mark Twain) character. I always think it’s the last time when I take off the wig of this great man. I am constantly surprised when I get yet another request to play him again.”
He’s currently working on a piece originally produced as a Screen Actor’s Guild Film Short, now being lengthened to full length.
“The film is a sort of buddy film for older types, taking place in the 1850 gold rush days of California. Actors never retire — as long as the phone keeps ringing.”