Rich Hoag owns Will Rogers in this entertaining, popular, and seriously profound show that had its premiere at Susie and David Couch’s Circle Bar B Dinner Theatre 10 years ago. Now, after a decade of living as Rogers onstage at theaters and festivals all over the country, Rich Hoag is reunited with the Couch crew for a weekend at their new Goodland Supper Club in the historic Timbers restaurant on Winchester Canyon Road in Goleta.
The stakes are high whenever an actor commits to portraying a historical figure, and they are even higher when the subject is someone like Will Rogers, who was himself an unforgettable performer. Fortunately, Hoag has the craft and the brainpower to go deeper than resemblance in order to open up the way the man Will Rogers thought and felt. It’s the uncanny degree to which Hoag captures Rogers’s characteristic habits of mind that allows the show to transcend mere impersonation and recitation. In fact, it’s when Hoag improvises, riffing on the latest news for example, that he seems most like the man he’s portraying.
For those whose knowledge of Rogers is limited to his oft-quoted maxim “I never met a man I didn’t like,” the experience will be a revelation. We don’t have a public figure of comparable influence in contemporary America. Rogers knew how to weave a coherent persona out of such disparate social roles as the cowboy, the entertainer, the skeptic, and the common man, and he did so with tremendous humility and generosity of spirit. If you crave an antidote to the vacuous rhetoric of contemporary culture, then Will Rogers’ America may be just what you are looking for. The buffet dinner before the show begins at 6:30 p.m., and the performance starts at 7:30 p.m. Although Friday, October 23, has sold out, there are still tickets available as of press time for the other three nights — Thursday, October 22; Saturday, October 24; and Sunday, October 25. For reservations, call (805) 705-9598.