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Last Twain To Charlotte

One-man show not just smoke and mirror images

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It's not often a writer like Mark Twain just up and stops in Charlotte. We might get Clive Cussler, perhaps, or -- thanks to the library -- John Grisham, but never a writer like the estimable Samuel Langhorne Clemens. OK, so it wasn't Twain, but rather local Twain fanatic (Twainbrain?) Roger Durrett, bringing his show to the stage of Spirit Square on Saturday. Judging by the reactions of most in the audience, they either didn't care or artfully suspended their disbelief. How do I know this? An Evening With Mark Twain boasted the single quietest audience at a play that I've ever witnessed. Kids and adults alike stared wide-eyed as Durrett ambled onstage, clad in Twain's familiar white suit, holding his lapels in the old Huey Long/Tammany Hall fashion. He then went into a spiel about smoking, and without further ado lit up a stogie, which, I'm here to report, was no stage prop. Smoke filled the hall rather quick, which certainly helped with the realism of the whole affair. It also led to everyone going outside to catch their breath at intermission. Doppelganger Twain also spoke at length about whiskey, but it appears all Durrett was drinking was water. The fact that Charlotteans don't support their own writers but will turn out in droves to see an actor play one says something about the overall "meta-ness" of Charlotte, but I'm not quite sure what. Leave it to the Charlotte Observer, however, to get the last word. The headline to that paper's Sunday review of a new H.L. Mencken biography called the writer "A 20th Century Mark Twain." Twain, of course, died in 1910, which, the last time I checked, was in the 20th century.The Light Factory held a fundraiser called 15 Minutes on Saturday. The premise of the evening was simple. Show up, get some drinks, watch a 50s-style mock fashion photo shoot, and, for $20 more, get made up and star in your own. Great idea, in principle: As Warhol so noted, we all love to pretend we're famous, or at least glamorous. The problem? Most of us are not. And that's not such a bad thing. The most enjoyable part of the evening? Looking at the wonderful photos by Byron Baldwin and Simmons Jones on display, and funkin' to the DJ. The worst? Getting bumped around by evening-gown-clad clotheshorses who thought they just made the finals of Joe Millionaire. Granted, Jones' photos showed that fashion photography can be art. However, pushing your way around and acting like an ass is not art, unless you're practicing the art of being an ass. As part of the event -- which, despite the above, I enjoyed a great deal -- The Light Factory had four classic cars parked outside, the better to set the mood of a 50s photo shoot. All evening, I wondered about the older, less decidedly fashion-conscious folks sitting on the couches near the front door. As I was leaving, the same folks were piling into their vintage Mustangs. One guy asked the others if they were gonna meet up next week in South Carolina to cruise and hang out, and the others quickly agreed. I left before they drove away -- I didn't hear tires spinning, but I bet I would have.Friday evening, I headed out to a place called Harvey's in Huntersville. The bar was pretty nice, if a bit vanilla, and the drinks were affordable. Damn. Another nice bar devoid of story material. Sitting near the bar and drinking away my writerly pain, I noticed a man with what I later concluded to be a serious obsessive-compulsive disorder. Now, nothing against people with obsessive-compulsive disorders -- I often check 10 or so times to make sure everything's turned off before I leave my apartment. However, add drinking into the mix, and you have utter confusion. Nuzzling a beer, I noticed the man turn his head sharply and look my way. Instinctively, I looked back. He spied me and turned away quickly. I thought that was the end of it. Perhaps fearing that I'm out to get him, he waits for my head to turn, and immediately looks back at me, laser-eyed. I turn to look at him, his head swivels away and stares at the wall. The dance continued until both of us get another drink. He gets closer -- sits at the table beside me, even. Eventually, I go to the loo, and upon returning, make sure to keep my back to the man. Ah, peace. I blissfully ordered another round, and wondered: Did I turn off the light? I bet I forgot to turn off the light...

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