A Review by Harrison Held.
I recently attended the opening night of the intriguing The Ben Hecht Show written by and starring talented James Sherman at the Zephyr Theatre on Melrose. It's a very interesting entertaining and humorous 80 minute one man show well directed by Dennis Zacek about the brilliant American born Jewish writer who achieved great success as a playwright, novelist and screenwriter. It's also an excellent history lesson chronicling the plights and successes of Jews in America and around the world. During the Second World War the previously very assimilated New York City born Hecht became a bold and devoted activist against the atrocities against the Jews in Europe and spent the rest of his life using his voice to fight against the insanity of anti-Semitism.
The play takes place in Ben Hecht's living room in 1943 - years before Mr. Hecht's famed friendship with film goddess Marilyn Monroe (those personal tales would have been interesting.. too bad) and as the play's postcards and PR says "Ben Hecht tells you everything you need to know about show business, Jews and anti-Semites. With jokes." And it does. Mr. Hecht (1894 - 1964) was an immensely talented writer who won the first Oscar for Best Original Story for his script for Underworld in 1929. His other classic screenplays included
Scarface, Nothing Sacred and
Wuthering Heights. With his keen brilliance, wit and talent he also became a highly paid script doctor contributing to classics like
Gone With The Wind, Stagecoach, Foreign Correspondent, the movie version of his hit Broadway play
The Front Page and many more. The piece begins with Mr. Hecht, 49, busy at his typewriter as the audience enters into the theatre on a very nice warm set designed by Christina Schwinn who also doubles as lighting designer. A soon to be former female friend asks him for information about the Jewish culture leading to what he describes as their "intellectual divorce."
As a child Mr. Hecht learned Hebrew to prepare for his Bar Mitzvah but didn't understand it. His life and family were very assimilated into the American way of life. As the play continues he shares about his foray into becoming a reporter working at the Chicago Journal for 15 years between 1910 and 1925. Broadway, finger bowls and epigrams became the synagogue of America's assimilated talented Jews. In the meantime European Jews are being tortured and murdered. The Ben Hecht Story delivers the goods about what really was happening in the world during this time and as previously stated is intriguing and an excellent history lesson well worth seeing.
The show runs Fridays thru Sundays til August 16th at The Zephyr Theatre. https://www.plays411.net/newsite/show/play_info.asp?show_id=4286