Monday, July 10, 2006

First Reviews Roll In

(Photo copyright by Michael Lamont).

The first reviews from the Internet have begun rolling in for Zero Hour. They are very, very good. Not just because they praise both the show and Jim's performance, but because they articulate very well what the show is about. They also give some excellent critiques about how the show could be made even better. This is something Jim was really hoping for since this is the first incarnation of the play. Like "Big Voice," even though we were very proud of its first outing, it became so much better after we had a chance to get it on the stage and play it in front of audiences. Plays and musicals are living organisms that grow and evolve, especially in the hands of people who look for those ways to focus, sharpen, and deepen the experience.

This morning, Les Spindle reviewed it for He began by describing it as "entertaining." Then looked at it more deeply, both in the text of the play and in the challenges of bringing Zero Mostel to life. He was not an easy man to like. Loud, bombastic, rude, hilarious -- all these things. You can read the review for yourself, but the last paragraph really says it all:
There is still much work to be done before Zero Hour becomes the gem it could be. But even now, its mix of something for everyone -- comedy, tragedy, showbiz history, and nostalgia -- results in a fresh and inventive piece.
Over at Talkin' Broadway, Sharon Perlmutter's review is equally glowing.
First, it's funny - sometimes tremendously so. Once or twice, I found myself not only laughing out loud, but shaking at the memory of the joke several minutes later. This was particularly true when Brochu reenacted small bits of Mostel's nightclub act, but Brochu also got laughs with Mostel's quick-witted smart-assery during the interview. ("Jewish dietary laws are very strict. Pork and shellfish may only be eaten in Chinese restaurants.") But this Mostel doesn't always go for the laugh; his temper can ignite instantaneously, and sometimes his quick shifts from open and friendly to full-voiced insanity are themselves funny.
She also takes time to talk about how the play is also a very serious drama, especially when it discusses Zero and the Blacklist of the House Un-American Activities Committee.
It is an intentionally subjective and painful recounting of a time in our history when careers were destroyed, lives were up-ended, and the artistic community was decimated. Brochu's Mostel talks about blacklisting with no less intensity than he would speak of the Holocaust. And although this sort of exaggeration is often, by its own overstatement, unpersuasive in reasoned debate, it works here, because Brochu has it come out of the mouth of a character who is so unrestrained in his speech under any circumstance, and who was so personally victimized by blacklisting, he pretty much dares you to call his reactions invalid.
She quibbles a bit with a couple of the choices Jim made, but agrees that it's a "potent" piece of theatre "with something to say."

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