National Tour REVIEW: Valerie Harper in Golda's Balcony-A Miracle
William Gibson, author of Two for the Seesaw and The Miracle Worker, has become one. And I do not mean Mr. Gibson has become a seesaw. For with his Golda's Balcony, Mr. Gibson has proven once again that he possesses the genius to give us the gift of theatrical miracles. Golda's Balcony is a masterpiece.
This one woman play is crafted, and the dialogue is written, to repeatedly captivate and drive the audience to higher and higher emotional heights. Through his concept and structure, William Gibson, in a play that is much too short in length, achieves the excitement of a roller coaster ride in presenting us an evening with Golda Meir.
In recounting and bringing to life, riveting moments, as well as tender, warm and often funny moments, of the life of the Israeli Prime Minister, Mr. Gibson reestablishes that he is one of the greatest playwrights this or any other country has ever produced.
William Gibson uses one actress who, as Golda Meir, takes on the guise of dozens of people who were part of Golda's world. He brings Golda Meir back to gloriously triumphant life, while sharing her heartbreaks, her thoughts, her eloquent words, and her towering achievements. This is a play about the hero who grew up in America making matzo balls and went on to Palestine, where she also made matzo balls and then wound up slicing apples for meeting attendees when she became Prime Minister of Israel.
We see Golda reliving the establishing of the state of Israel; we see her saving the world from nuclear extinction, and we even see her wondering if Moshe Dayan had sex with his eye patch on or off. This play presents a warm and loving Golda Meir. He shows us a brilliant and driven feminist (long before the word was established) with a huge Jewish Heart who chain smoked her brilliance to establishing a nation. She then governed it, protected it, financed it, and led it to being a world super power. Finally a home for the Jews of the world to be safe. From the ashes of the Holocaust, Golda Meir was Earth mother and nurturer of the nation of Israel. In Golda's Balcony, she reads off the names of the concentration camps, as she is visiting the Holocaust Memorial, Yad Vashem. Golda reminds us of the very simple riveting drive for the necessity of a Jewish safe haven. So that what happened to six millions Jews in World War II will happen, NEVER AGAIN.
Director Scott Schwartz has a steady command of the special effects cavalcade that inhabit Golda's Balcony. This is a director who did not let his cleverness get in the way. He assuredly lets the entire technical team achieve professional perfection, with cinematic flow and theatrical thunder. It is difficult to ascertain how Mr. Schwartz's direction established the performance of the actress playing Golda. Whatever he did, it was the right thing to do. Scott Schwartz knew he had a masterpiece on his hands and he knew how to direct it.
I just loved Valerie Harper. As Golda she plays just about everything. From a five year old boy, to Henry Kissinger; from Golda's own father and mother to Ben Gurion. She briefly becomes a woman who survived the Holocaust by smothering her own baby to death so the Nazi's wouldn't hear them. She becomes Golda's husband and children, she brings to life members of her Cabinet, she seemingly reincarnates the world leaders she battles and those with whom she was victorious. Ms. Harper morphs into Golda at different ages, in different countries, in varying life roles. She is bold, she is exciting and ultimately, simply entrancing. This is a carefully calculated performance. A challenge for any performer, Ms. Harper demonstrates a mastery of skill, sensitivity, timing, and instinct. She had the audience wrapped firmly in her arms shortly after Golda's smoke began to billow from her cigarette. To say that Valerie Harper triumphs as Golda Meir is to state the obvious. Frankly, I expected she would be great. I always admired and enjoyed Valerie Harper. Tonight, I fell in love with her. Tonight, Valerie Harper made me fall in love with Golda Meir.
The final performance of Golda's Balcony is January 15 at the Parker Playhouse. Do Not miss it.
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