Lee Hartgrave is a critic and reporter in the San Francisco area. After we got home, we looked for his online review of "Zero Hour" to find out more. Here is what he wrote:
It isn’t Jim Brochu that comes out on the stage – its famed actor Zero Mostel. The play starts with Mostel in his Studio, where he paints. This is also his retreat where he can get away from the world, except for the occasional phone call from his wife demanding that he stop and get something from the store for her. There is a knock at the door – and Mostel yells – “What do want? Who is it?). Finally he gets up and lets the visitor in. It is a Newspaper Reporter (N.Y. Times) who is here for a scheduled interview. An interview that Mostel forgot about or wanted to forget about. Right away, we get the feeling that Mostel is a miserable f—ck. He hates just about everything, and Newspaper reporters are at the top of the list.
Brochu is a master at bringing out all the diverse channels of Mostel’s schizo personality. One minute he is charming as hell, then – the next minute he is screaming at you. He is unpredictable and you have to walk on eggs around him. Brochu also looks amazingly like Mostel. His eyes are bulging and they seem to bulge out even more when he gets into talking about McCarthy and blacklisting of actors. Mostel was one of them, and he has never gotten over it. His telling of the tale of McCarthy cross-examining him is brilliant.
He was born Samuel Mostel. He was encouraged to change his name to Zero when a friend told him that he should change it. Mostel wanted to know what was wrong with Samuel? The friend said something like this: “When was the last time that you got a job?” It turns out that it had been some time. “Exactly”, said the friend. “It’s Zero. So that will be your new name.” The name has been good for the actor.
Mostel is probably best known for the play “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” But, along the way he had made a huge splash in many plays, especially Ionesco’s Rhinoceros. Mostel’s best friend – the one who changed his first name was actor Philip Loeb, who could not deal with the blacklisting stain. His career slipped, as did many in those times. He committed suicide. Mostel was devastated. Brochu’s telling of those days is very heart-rending.
Throughout this tour-de-force by Brochu he takes us on a bumpy hilarious ride with funny quips to deep emotional feelings that Mostel had on various subjects. Who else could be better suited to bring Mostel back to life than Brochu, who was also a friend of Mostel’s. He had plenty of time to absorb the mans inner feelings. This is big time acting that is headed for Broadway. Instead of spending the bucks to see it in New York – why not see it here before it goes there? ZERO IS A PLUS!
AT THE NEW CONSERVATORY THEATRE
RATING: FOUR GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!!! –trademarked- (highest rating)
WINNER! The Lee Hartgrave Fame Award for Best Actor in a Play in 2007