Updated 5:00 AM
Time Out Theater Review: "Zero Hour"
What a shame "The Producers" closed back in 2007. I’ve found the perfect actor to play Max Bialystock: Jim Brochu. He’s chubby, funny, and has killer comic timing. Okay, I admit this casting idea is a no-brainer. In "Zero Hour," Brochu does an uncanny impersonation of legendary comedian Zero Mostel, the original Max Bialystock.
In this solo bioplay directed by Hollywood veteran Piper Laurie, writer and performer Brochu is freakishly convincing as the blustery, brilliant Mostel. It’s more than just the ridiculous comb-over, the bug eyes and the Tevye beard. Brochu seems to have captured the soul of the bombastic clown who could wring laughs out of an audience with a bit of mime or a booming punch line.
The framing device is that it’s 1977 and Zero is being interviewed in his 28th Street art studio by a reporter from The New York Times. Gradually Zero recounts his life up to that point: Growing up Jewish in Brooklyn, his early years as a comic, his lifelong love affair with painting, his marriage to a Gentile which causes his parents to disown him, and his years on the blacklist due to McCarthyism in the 50s. In fact, Zero’s run-in with the House on Un-American Activities takes up a large chunk of Zero Hour, as he draws implicit and provocative parallels between the communist witch hunts and the Holocaust. There may be surprises for some, such as learning that "Fiddler on the Roof" choreographer and director Jerome Robbins named people suspected of being communist, thus ruining their lives. Sounds dark, but Brochu always insures that Zero deflates even the darkest moment with a raucous, absurdist joke.
For those who want to hear the big man dish about Mel Brooks, "The Producers" or give us inside dope on Stephen Sondheim, well, Zero Hour doesn’t have much of that. It’s a more idiosyncratic, personal work, a funny tribute to a funny man.