Center Stage with Pat Laune r on KSDS JAZZ88
AIRDATE: MAY 7, 2010
She wasn’t your sweet, docile, Yiddishe Mama, standing on her Tel Aviv balcony, looking out to sea. She was a tough, defiant, uncompromising force of nature, hellbent on defending her country and her people no matter what.
It was 1973. She was 75. No knitting, rocking chair retirement for her. Golda Meir, the “Iron Lady,” fourth Prime Minister of Israel, was called back into service. And as the Yom Kippur War took a turn for the worse, she was poised on the edge of a deadly precipice, ready to drop nuclear bombs on her Syrian and Egyptian enemies.
Unless Nixon and Kissinger came through with dozens of F-4 Phantoms and more conventional weaponry. It was a life and death moment – for the State of Israel, and perhaps the world.
That wasn’t how she’d dreamed it would be. She was an idealist, a fierce Zionist who set out to create “a model for the redemption of the human race.” And there she is, holding world destruction in her hands. What happens, she asks, when idealism becomes power?
In “Golda’s Balcony,” playwright William Gibson gives us the backstory, from Goldie Mabovich’s humble beginnings in Kiev, keeping the Cossacks at bay, to her youth in Milwaukee and Denver, her immigration to Israel, from kibbutz to the halls of government, from wife and mother of two to the woman who helped birth a nation, and stood on the brink of destroying it all.
In a tense, intense 90 minutes, we take the journey with her, getting the full effect of the passion, fervor and 2000-year history that drives the creators and defenders of Israel .
The play opened in New York in 2003, and became the longest running one-woman show in Broadway history. Tovah Feldshuh , whose stage career was launched 30 years ago at the Old Globe, is back at that venue with her tour de force, bravura performance, one that absolutely must not be missed.
From teasing and playful to agonized and near hysterical, swiftly switching voices and accents, from Kissinger to Jordan ’s King Abdullah, from her mother to her generals, Feldshuh magnificently captures the character – and the tenor of the time.
It’s a brilliant piece of work, a role that the lovely Feldshuh helped create and define, fully embodying it with a fat-suit, fake nose, pendulous breasts, and bulging, veiny phlebitis-ridden legs. She is Golda and we are transfixed.
Golda was no angel, she tells us, no nun. She moved a city away from her husband, was rarely there for her children, admits to marital infidelities. But she was unflinchingly faithful to her country. She was imperfect, intransigent, courageous, charismatic, half gorgon, half godmother. But what a woman!
“Golda’s Balcony” runs through May 30, in the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park .
©2010 PAT LAUNER