Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern

Zero Hour

Jim Bochu
Born in 1915, Samuel Joel Mostel 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 (PWAP) 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 redeem himself by giving 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. Mostel 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.

When Tony Award and Obie Award winner Zero Mostel passed away in 1977, he was probably best known to the American public for his portrayal of comic characters such as Tevye in Fiddler On The Roof, Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum and Max Bialystock in The Producers.

Zero Hour is set in 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 and sadness and survival. That seems to be Zero's gift—to survive life with zest regardless of where it leads you.

Mixed with the humor is sadness as well, such as when he speaks about 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 charming picture of the colorful, larger-than-life man that was Zero for the audience. Brochu's resemblance to Mostel is uncanny, and his portrayal is entertaining while appearing effortlessly fluid. This cleverly written and well acted one-man show is a real gem.

Zero Hour, which recently appeared at the Broward Stage Door Theatre, is heading to New York where it slated to play Off-Broadway. The Stage Door Theatre is located at 8036 W. Sample Rd in Coral Springs, Florida. The Stage Door Theatre is a not-for-profit professional theatre company hiring local and non-local nonunion actors and actresses. Their two stages in Coral Springs as well as their 26th Street Theatre location in Ft. Lauderdale are open year round. For tickets and information on their season, you may contact them by phone at 954-344-7765 or on line at

Zero Mostel: Jim Brochu

Director: Piper Laurie
Lighting Design: Ardean Landhuis
Stage Manger: Jamie Cooper

See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- John Lariviere

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