Unlike most opening nights, which are filled with friends and family, who whoop and holler at every motion, Theater J's opening night was filled with people who came to seriously view the piece and respond an honest and objective reaction. They did, however, give Jim healthy entrance applause. Then, they sat back and allowed Jim to work his magic.
At intermission, after Jim's explosive act one ending, you could tell that there was a buzz going on in the lobby. Few people knew of Zero's serious political stances and the agony and anger he went felt when his best friend, Phillip Loeb committed suicide after being blacklisted. They just knew him as a comedian and "the fat guy in The Producers."
In act two, as Jim recreates Zero's hilarious and painful testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee, I could feel the audience on the edge of its seat, silent as a tomb during the tense moments, and laughing loudly and unexpectedly during Zero's scornful humorous retorts.
By the final curtain, they were on their feet, praising the performance and cheering. It was one of those great nights that, really, can only be felt in live theatre. I captured little bits of the evening in this video.
(And as I sit here writing this, we're watching "Trumbo" on PBS, the beautiful documentary about blacklisted writer, Dalton Trumbo.)
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