Dinner and a show in New York City would cost a pretty penny, over and above the four hours required to drive there. But Dickens Parlour Theatre in Millville is treating Sussex County to a Big Apple night, without the Big Apple price. This weekend only, the play “Zero Hour” will end its wildly successful off-Broadway run and begin its multi-city tour in – yes – Millville.
The one-man show stars Jim Brochu as Zero Mostel, the actor known on stage as Reb Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof” and as “Max Bialystock” in the original film production of “The Producers.”
In the play, Mostel is speaking to a reporter in his artist’s studio, where he recounts and relives his life at home and onstage.
“It’s a very funny show,” said Dickens Parlour Theatre owner and professional magician Rich Bloch, “but it also has some moments of …very grave issues, having to do with the House Un-American Activities Committee, where [Mostel] was blacklisted [in 1955].”
Bloch and Brochu have been good friends for years, and Bloch was a producer for “Zero Hour” during its run in New York, while actress Piper Laurie served as director. And, as far as bringing the critically acclaimed production to his new venue in Millville, Bloch was just lucky to have a double connection: a friend and colleague with a weekend to spare.
“He’s a wonderful guy,” Bloch said of Brochu. “The show is just closing in New York now, after a very, very successful run.”
For three years, “Zero Hour” won major awards in Los Angeles, Florida and Washington, D.C., until it reached New York City, where, in 2010, Brochu won the Drama Desk Award for Best Actor, which is the highest honor for an actor in an off-Broadway show.
Brochu was a young teenager when he first met Zero Mostel in 1962, and he recalled that the imposing and outrageous man “scared the hell out of me.” Brochu was often backstage at “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” studying Mostel – who played Pseudolus in the show – and the other actors.
Brochu ran into Mostel in New York after got his own first acting job.
“I said, ‘Zero, I’m an actor now.’ And he said, ‘I’ll be the judge of that.’”
When Brochu asked for an autograph, “He screamed at me, ‘You’re not worthy!’” Yet Mostel saw Brochu’s show soon thereafter and left that requested autograph in Brochu’s dressing room.
Mostel’s legacy stuck with Brochu throughout his own acting career in theater and television until he wrote “Zero Hour” in 2005.
“Zero Hour” is the Dickens Parlour Theatre’s first major non-magic production and may serve as a trial run for other types of shows that could be held there in the future. Bloch said he is willing to see how the theater can develop in other “eclectic offerings.”
Ultimately, Bloch does acknowledge, “So far, it’s been really successful as a magic theater, and I certainly will intend never to let it lose its roots.”
With a total of 50 seats and its retro décor, the cozy theater provides an intimate setting for both audience and performer to build a connection, magically and theatrically.
Adding to this weekend’s intimate experience, dinner will follow each show. Audiences and Brochu will cross the road to Twenty-Six, where they can dine, socialize and discuss the play. Those attending will have a choice of six to eight entrées.
Performances will run from Jan. 21 to Jan. 23. The Friday and Saturday shows begin at 6:30 p.m. The Sunday matinee is at 2 p.m. The show will be an hour and 40 minutes long, with a brief intermission.
Tickets cost $55 and must be reserved ahead of time. Dinner is included with the purchase of tickets, but alcohol and gratuity are not. For reservations or information, call (302) 829-1071. More information is available online at dptmagic.com.