Zero Mostel lives again!
Tue Dec 1 2009
NOT FOR NOTHING Brochu revives a Broadway icon.
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5
Zero Mostel, who died in 1977, has resisted the fade to nothingness through various recordings of his work: several films (most notably The Producers) and the original-cast albums of his Broadway triumphs (Fiddler on the Roof and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum). By all accounts, however, Mostel blazed most brightly in live performance. So we owe Jim Brochu a debt of gratitude for Zero Hour, an extraordinary act of reincarnation that restores the outsize actor to us in all of his daunting dimensions.
From the moment that Brochu spins around to face the audience, he is a Hirschfeld drawing come to pulsing life: the paradoxical lightness of his bulk, the bulging eyes beneath rolling brows, the garish comb-forward of hair. There is a good deal of aggression built into Mostel's humor; he rim-shots many of his Borscht Belt one-liners by snapping into a comic mask of mischievous challenge, somewhere between a grin and a snarl. In Brochu's account, he has many grapes of wrath to stomp, stemming from two traumatic rejections: by his parents, after his marriage to a non-Jewish woman, and by much of the entertainment world when he was blacklisted for his Marxist sympathies. Brochu limns these episodes nimbly in his script, but under Piper Laurie's sharp directorial eye, his performance never grows maudlin. You can't help being swept up in the tornado of energy as Brochu's star turn conjures forth a Zero larger than life and death.—Adam Feldman