Zero Mostel born Samuel Joel Mostel – renowned actor, legendary comedian, notorious House Un-American Activities Committee victim who refused to name names and abstract painter (who knew?) is alive and well and venting at the DR2 Theatre on East 15th Street where Jim Brochu is zeroing in on the man named Zero in his one man magnum opus performance in his new play Zero Hour which has transferred from its very successful run at the Theatre at St. Clements.
For those skeptics who do not believe in reincarnation, buy a ticket to see Mr. Brochu and you will instantly become a believer. He has the bulk. The darting eyes and salacious tongue. The mannerisms. The voice. The ferociousness and the finesse – a magnificient embodiment of the real Zero Mostel. It is to his credit that you begin to believe that you are watching Zero give this interview to an unseen reporter from the New York Times and not the actor portraying Zero.
Not only is the performance worth the price of admission but the script is well crafted – roaringly funny at times, full of backstage anecdotes which include tales about George Abbott, David Merrick, Louis B. Mayer, Lucille Ball and Jerome Robbins whom he labels a loose lipped weasel of a genius. Fate kept putting them together. Robbins did name names; Zero didn’t resulting in ten years of blacklisting. Robbins came in to fix “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum” starring Zero and Brochu recreates brilliantly their chilling confrontation in front of the cast and crew. They joined forces again with “Fiddler on the Roof” overcoming personal differences for the creation of art.
Mr. Mostel was a man of contradictions. Always feeling excluded. Always wanting to be in the spotlight and then not. Retreating to his Studio on West 28th to paint away the fears and the paranoia – where his Catholic wife Kathryn keeps calling to remind him to bring home some sour cream from Zabar’s and where he found solace recuperating from being hit by a bus which resulted in the near amputation of his leg and his relieved exit from a flop.
But most of the drama in the two act Zero Hour comes from the time when he was under scrutiny by the FBI regarding his communist affiliations. It is in these scenes that you see the pent up anger explode – like a human volcano slowly erupting, spewing forth his rage at the “intellectual final solution to eliminate thought” – his hatred for Jerome Robbins festering and his fury over his best friend Paul Loeb jumping to his death after being blacklisted. It’s an amazing piece of writing, performance and direction by Piper Laurie – who has just the right touch and tone for each segment of this intimate and impassioned portrait of an artist. Zero Hour is the best one man show ever!
www.zerohourshow.com Photo: Stan Barouh