Mark Twain lives at B Street Theatre. The celebrated American humorist with a good deal of local history has been revived through a series of family-friendly comic sketches based on his writings called “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other Tales.” Adapted by B Street staff writers Buck Busfield, Greg Alexander and David Pierini, the stories come to life as comic vignettes interspersed with slices of Twain’s personal and professional history.
The production’s centerpiece is Twain’s 1865 classic “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” which was based on a story he’d heard at Angels Hotel in Angels Camp, where he had worked as a failed miner. The story tells of the gambler Jim Smiley who’d bet on anything and his prize jumping frog, Daniel Webster. A love interest is also added in this version. The international success of that story (dramatized here with puppets) led to a commission from the Sacramento Union for Twain to write letters about his travel experiences.
Greg Alexander plays Twain in the writer’s most familiar look of bushy white hair and thick droopy mustache. Alexander’s Twain functions as host, narrator and sometime-character in the stories. The ensemble includes Family Series favorites Rick Kleber, Amy Kelly and John Lamb along with intern Meaghan Macy.
Other stories featured in the production are “The Story of the Bad Little Boy, “The Story of the Good Little Boy,” “Mrs. McWilliams and the Lightning,” “About Barbers,” “The Stolen White Elephant,” and “The Joke that Made Ed’s Fortune.”
There’s no particular through line as the stories are presented in a fast-paced series of skits directed by Lyndsay Burch. While all the stories are comic in nature they also contain Twain’s sense of dark irony about people, their motivations, and behaviors.
Mark Twain Tales
- What: B Street Theatre’s Family Series adapts “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other Tales” by Mark Twain into a series of humorous sketches.
- When: 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through June 6
- Where: B Street Theatre B2 Stage, 2711 B St., Sacramento
- Tickets: $20 Adults, $15 Children
- Information: (916) 443-5300, bstreettheatre.org