Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
Also see John's review of The Rocky Horror Show
When Tony and Obie Award winner Zero Mostel passed away in September of 1977, he was probably best known to the American public for his portrayal of comic characters such as Tevye in the stage version of Fiddler On The Roof, Pseudolus in both the stage and film versions of A Funny Thing Happened On The Way to the Forum, and Max Bialystock in the film version of The Producers. While he was in rehearsals for James Joyce's Ulysses, his impassioned delivery of his character's speeches were said to rattle the rafters of the rehearsal space. In anticipation of these grand acting moments, director, actor and friend Burgess Meredith was said to have cried out, "Hold onto your tits everybodyit's Zero hour!"
Zero Hour is set in July of 1977 in Zero's Manhattan art studio as he is preparing to play Shylock in The Merchant. The action is set in motion by an unseen New York Times reporter who has come to interview him. The series of questions Zero answers sets off funny stories and passionate memories filled with humor, tragedy andabove allsurvival. That seems to be Zero's giftto survive life with zest regardless of where it leads you.
The stories told are mixed with sadness as well as humor, such as when Zero speaks of his friend Philip Loeb who committed suicide after being questioned by House Un-American Activities Committee. The show zips by as conversational tangents flow freely from Zero's stream of consciousness. He continues to paint on canvas as he tells the reporter stories of his childhood, marriage and career on stage. In doing so, he paints a fascinating picture of the colorful, larger-than-life man that was Zero both on and off stage. Brochu's resemblance to Mostel is uncanny, and his portrayal is compelling. Though surely actor Brochu spent hours studying the mannerisms and facial expressions of Mostel, it all looks seemingly effortless. This cleverly written and brilliantly acted one-man show is a theatrical moment to be remembered.
Samuel Joel Mostel was born in 1915, and showed a great affinity for comedy at an early age. While working toward his Master of Arts at the City College of New York he was paid by the Public Works of Art Project to give gallery talks at New York's museums. His lectures became famous for their comedic rather than artistic content, and he was soon being paid to do comedy at parties and meetings. In 1941 he was offered a job as a comedian at a downtown Manhattan nightclub called Cafe Society. It was the famous Cafe Society that gave him the nickname "Zero" by which he was to be known by all.
Zero performed on the radio, in Yiddish Theatre, and landed roles on Broadway in Keep Them Laughing and Top Notchers. In 1943 Life magazine described him as "just about the funniest man now living." In the 1950s Zero's career was severely damaged, however, when he was called before the House Committee on Un-American Activities for having reportedly been a member of the Communist Party. Mostel invoked his Fifth Amendment rights and refused to give the committee more names. While his testimony won admiration within the blacklisted community, it did not prevent Zero from being blacklisted himself, and his family struggled through the 1950s with little income. He used this time to work in his art studio. Later he would say that he cherished those years for the time it afforded him to do what he loved most.
Zero Hour will be appearing at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre through October 24, 2010. The Maltz Jupiter Theatre is a 550-seat, nonprofit, community-based Equity regional theatre belonging to the League of Resident Theatres, and the Florida Professional Theatre Association. This theatre employees both local and non-local Equity and non-union cast and crew members. The theatre is located at 1001 Indiantown Rd. (just off of A1A) in Jupiter, Florida. For tickets and complete information on the theatre's offerings, contact them by phone at 561/ 575-2223 or 800/ 445-1666, and online at www.jupitertheatre.org.