Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Randall Duk Kim clearly is a character actor of uncommon gifts. He makes his Washington bow as Walt Whitman in a one-man work of his own devising, "Walt," which began a two-week run Tuesday in the Kennedy Center's Chautauqua Tent. You will be impressed to meet him.
The occasion introduces American Players Theater, which aims to present classical plays in cities where professional theater is unknown. Based in Washington, the group is using this fortnight to begin its fund drive; and if Kim's skills can be matched by a full company, APT could have a promising future.
Onto the tent's platform struggles an old man in gray suit, white collar and cuffs, a gold chain across half his vest. He has the full white beard, mustache and hair of the aged Whitman portraits. A cane in his right hand, he putters about, then, sighing, sits.
It's an old, worn voice but has the range of a man who enjoys talking. Blue eyes gleam above puckered skin and he confides: "I'm an outdoor man - wings . . ."
Aware that he nears the end of his life, Whitman recalls mainly his Washington years as government clerk, wartime hospital visitor and now his New Jersey retirement. He speaks of humble people, their loves for one another, man for woman, man for man. In age, he has not lost his admiration for the physical, to touch and embrace. "Leaves of Grass" is here, as are letters and "Goodbye, My Fancy."
The 70 minutes are all of a monochrome, gray, evenly controlled.
One values the more, then, Hal Holbrook's many-toned, deeply textured Mark Twain who, from old age becomes a lad, becomes a black slave, constantly varies, jerks us forward, throws us back. Clearly as he sounds it, Kim's Whitman is a One-Note Walt.