Monday, October 18, 2010

Review by Irv Rikon: Zero Hour at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre



ZERO HOUR, written by and starring Jim Brochu, had its off-Broadway Premiere as recently as November, 2009, but from October 21 through October 24, 2010, it's at THE MALTZ JUPITER THEATRE in Jupiter, where I urge you to see it. The subject is Zero Mostel, the legendary comic actor who onstage originated the role of Tevye in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF and created the lead role in A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM both onstage and in the film. He was the producer in Mel Brooks' movie,THE PRODUCERS. To me, he was the most inimitable actor I ever saw, larger than life. Despite his size and bulk, he moved gracefully, his schtick and mugging helping to make him a truly memorable performer. Mr. Brochu succeeds in bringing him back again.

Zero was a painter before he turned to acting. The setting is his Artist's Studio in Manhattan. A reporter from The New York Times has come to interview him in July, 1977. The time is critical to his story. Zero and other alleged Communists working in the entertainment industry had been asked to appear before a Congressional Committee investigating the suspected influence of communism in the popular media. Many who testified before that Committee would ultimately be blacklisted, Zero among them. Blacklisting meant no one would hire them again. This was "The McCarthy Era," played out during the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations, but with its repercussions -- especially the ugly partisan politics -- felt to this day. The play does a good job of showing McCarthyism's evils. Those whom Senator Joe and his colleagues disliked and accused -- often without substantial evidence -- were essentially barred from employment with, in most instances, their reputations shattered, sometimes forever.

Zero had other problems: his parents disowned him; in a freak accident, a bus ran over him, crushing his leg and causing him pain that lasted through the remainder of his life. These things and more he talks about with the reporter and us, the audience. He names names, among them actress Lucille Ball and Director-Choreographer Jerome Robbins. Zero's relationship with Robbins was extraordinary, to say the least. As Zero Mostel, Mr. Brochu swaggers, smiles, snarls, tells tales that are funny, bitter and angry. His performance is a tour-de-force that won for him the 2010 New York Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Solo Performance and the 2010 Helen Hayes Award for Best Lead Actor in a Play. I've no doubt the New York critics got it right.

All who love theater should see this show. All who lived in America during the '50s, '60s and '70s will remember the days of their relative youth. For others, it will be an entertaining bit of showbiz Americana. My one and only objection to the show is that too much of the downside of Zero Mostel is in it. For me, he was a very funny man, and that's the image I like to keep with me. But I laughed here, just as I laughed when Zero himself took the stage. Applause, applause!

For tickets and additional information, telephone 575-2223 or online at

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