Golda’s Balcony is Brilliant, Timeless and Timely
TheatreWorks New Milford produces a spell bounding look at a remarkable woman at the intersection of life and politics
In U.S. Presidential election campaigns, candidates sometimes boast about who is better equipped to answer the phone at 3am – that’s the middle-of-the-night call bringing urgent news affecting national security.
It is not an idle boast. The ability to deal with that ominous call is critical to the future of any nation – and it is brilliantly illustrated in Golda’s Balcony, a masterful one-woman, one-act play, now on stage at TheatreWorks New Milford.
This 90-minute show is a retrospective of the remarkable life of Golda Meir, the inspiring former Prime Minister of Israel, who was awakened in the middle of the night in October 1973 with news of the impending Yom Kippur War. The play opens to the sounds combat -- automatic weapons and artillery fire -- underscoring the urgency of the moment and helping to rivet the audience for the evening.
But this production is not just an account of a tough political leader at a single moment of national crisis. It is the life’s story of idealist, a tireless advocate for Judaism who experienced or witnessed some of the worst atrocities of the 20th Century.
Meir’s adult life was dedicated to the dream of building a Jewish state. And her life’s endeavor prepared her well for the one moment when she alone would contemplate the unthinkable as she tried to save a young nation and the dream of millions from annihilation.
Ms. Sonnie Osborne, a veteran actress who has appeared in more than 15 TheatreWorks productions, is spell bounding as Meir. The challenge in any one-actor performance is in mastering the intricacies of the central character. Ms. Oborne is superb, achieving the goal seemingly effortlessly. She is especially adapt as the weary leader of a nation trying to reconcile the conflicting advice offered by her generals during the critical stages of war planning.
But she crowns this achievement by portraying a Meir as an idealistic youth, in love with both her vision of utopia and her boyfriend, and later as an exhausted housewife faced with the ordinariness of life. And she switches easily, portraying snapshots of a demanding mother, angry father, and complacent and loving husband.
Also stunning in this production is the staging. It is simple, stark and Spartan. The set features a desk with two chairs and a single black telephone. These modern devices are juxtaposed against a powerful backdrop of blocks of temple stones, suggesting the strength and durability of faith.
The lighting and occasional snippets of soulful music effectively emphasize the frequent changes in mood, especially during the key monologues. And the pace and detail of the story is aided by the occasional use of photographs projected on the stone block wall to illustrate key characters and events.
Director Jane Farnol deserves much credit for assembling this first-rate production. She is ably assisted by Laura Gilbert, assistant director. Richard Pettibone, Scott Wyshynski and Thomas Libonate handled set, lighting, production and sound design.
The title of the play refers to the two balconies in Meir’s life. One offered a utopian view from her apartment overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, underscoring the fact that the dream of a Jewish state had been achieved. The second balcony overlooked the secret underground facility where Israel developed its nuclear bombs. Ironically, the threat of the use of these weapons of mass destruction served as the salvation of Israel during the Yom Kippur War.
Created by playwright William Gibson, Golda’s Balcony set a record in 2005 as the longest-running one-woman play in Broadway history.